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Thursday, October 28, 2010

Low Self Esteem Associated with Online Gaming Addiction

I receive so many questions about online gaming addiction. I have a new book available on Kindle 'When Gaming Becomes an Obsession: Help for Parents and their Children to Treat Online Gaming Addiction" and thought that I would take excepts from the booklet. It seems a good way to handle some of the questions I get. The next few posts will focus on risk factors associated with gaming addiction.

"Individuals who suffer from low self-esteem are at greatest risk for developing an addiction to online gaming. In one case, I worked with a 20-year-old from Rochester, NY who was kicked out of RIT. When I asked him about his gaming, he said that his life seemed to be important when he was playing the game. He was important in the game, but in real life, he was someone who couldn’t make friends and wasn’t fulfilling his parent’s expectations. He had failed school, not so much because he couldn’t pass the tests, but he couldn’t make it to class. He was someone who didn’t have a direction in his life, and because of this, didn’t feel good about his life. But in the game, all that changed. He was good at the game, had a network of fellow gamers who he felt were his closest (and only) friends, and he felt validated and confident when playing the game."

Sunday, October 24, 2010

The Signs of Online Gaming Addiction

i have received a few reporter questions this week asking to define the signs of online gaming addiction. Online gaming has exploded, there is to doubt of that. What form does the addiction take? Is it just a matter of time? Not really, although I have treated gamers who spend every waking hour gaming. For today's post, I thought I would share what has become accepted as a main criteria to watch for when assessing online gaming addiction. Please answer "yes" or "no" to the following:

  1. Do you need to play online games with increasing amounts of time in order to achieve the desired excitement?
  2. Are you preoccupied with gaming (thinking about it when offline, anticipating your next online session)?
  3. Have you lied to friends and family members to conceal extent of your online gaming?
  4. Do you feel restless or irritable when attempting to cut down or stop online gaming?
  5. Have you made repeated unsuccessful efforts to control, cut back, or stop online gaming?
  6. Do you use gaming as a way of escaping from problems or relieve feelings of helplessness, guilt, anxiety, or depression?
  7. Have you jeopardized or lost a significant relationship, or even risked your marriage because of your online gaming habit?
  8. Have you jeopardized a job, educational, or career opportunity because of your online gaming habit?

If you (or a loved one) has answered "yes" to three or more of the above questions, you may be addicted to online gaming. These are common warning signs that you have lost control, lied, or possibly risked a relationship to support your gaming behavior. It is not easy to break the habit - too much is involved in gaming (the multi-user games especially are hard to break). Help and further resources are available online at netaddiction.com - or if you wish to set up an individual session, please feel free to call our center.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Can online gaming be positive social behavior?

Can online gaming build social values and behavior?

The game, Urgent Evoke, is funded by the World Bank to the tune of $500,000 and launched today. It will continue for 10 weeks and features weekly challenges.

A reporter had asked me what I felt about the utility of using online gaming to promote social behaviors. I thought this was an interesting question. I think games are a great way to promote social benefits. It certain is a better way that some others and it helps gamers learn about social values. It seems like a great partnership. We live in a society that has declined in the volume of community service it provides, so games would be one way to help teach young people service values. It should not be contained to Africa but other geographic areas would benefit as well. Already, 400 people out of 3,500 is a great start, and the game just launched so only time will tell how many more sign up and how effective long range service mindedness can be encouraged through gaming. Online gaming is a great way to reach people that otherwise brick-and-mortar avenues may not. In my clinical practice, gaming behavior transfers to real life, this is part of treatment. A 16-year old might be a great leader of a popular guild online but in real life suffers from low self esteem. Treatment encourages the transfer of these skills to benefit others by using this young person's leadership skills. So, yes, skill sets learned through gaming can transfer to real life, and online learning can also transfer to real life behavior.

This all comes at a time when online gaming has become increasingly popular - yes, addictive to some, but a popular way to reach out to people. It seems for both young adults and adults.

It would be interesting to hear from online gamers on your thoughts on the effectiveness of this?

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Some interesting statistics on Internet addiction

While the Internet has opened the world to many in ways never imagined, new studies continue to replicate prevsiou studies that I have conducted from the 90s and reinforce that Internet overuse can become harmful.

Examples of Internet addiction include online gambling, gaming and shopping, obsession with pornography, blogs, social media and chat rooms.

The hardest part is determining how much time is too much. When you’re looking at someone who spends a great deal of time on the Internet, you’re trying to determine if they’re spending an exorbitant amount of time doing that as opposed to everyday living. If it’s causing you a problem in your life, then it’s a problem.

Internet addiction is similar to substance addictions in that many of the same symptoms are present.

If you’re more interested in spending time with the thing you’re addicted to than you are with your family and friends, then that’s a symptom. If you’re preoccupied with the thing you’re addicted to, then that’s a symptom. Those things are the same for any addiction.

Internet addiction can lead to more serious symptoms, including health problems from a lack of sun or exercise, increased senses of loneliness and depression and the loss of social skills. If left untreated, Internet addictions can increase the likelihood that the individual will get divorced or fired, or have financial, academic or sexual problems.

Internet addictions can be very serious.

Whereas treatment for substance addictions focuses on abstinence, Internet addiction treatment focuses on abstaining from the specific problem, not necessarily from the Internet itself. The reason for that is that it’s not realistic in today’s job market for an individual to never use the Internet.

A person who is an alcoholic should never drink again. The goal (of Internet addiction treatment) is to never engage in the problematic aspect of the Internet. If your addiction is centered around social networking, then our goal for you would be to stop using Facebook or the other social networking options available.

Certain groups of people are more at risk.

Teens are more at risk because, let’s face it, they have been raised in technology their entire life.

Other at-risk groups include people who are immobile or homebound, people who lack social support, people who suffer from depression or anxiety disorders, and people who have addictive personalities.

One of the later large-scale studies conducted on Internet addictions was completed in 2006 by Stanford University’s School of Medicine, which interviewed 2,513 adults in a nationwide telephone survey.

Researchers said 68.9 percent of respondents were regular Internet users, and one in eight displayed at least one possible sign of problematic Internet use.

The team, moreover, said:

That 13.7 percent found it hard to stay away from the Internet for several days at a time.

That 12.3 percent had seen a need to cut back on Internet use at some point.

That 8.7 percent attempted to conceal nonessential Internet use from family, friends and employers.

That 5.9 percent thought their relationships suffered as a result of excessive Internet use.

Elias Aboujaoude, the study’s lead author, said he was particularly concerned by the number of people who hid their nonessential Internet use.

“Obviously something is wrong when people go out of their way to hide their Internet activity,” he said in a news release. “We often focus on how wonderful the Internet is — how simple and efficient it can make things. But we need to consider the fact that it creates real problems for a subset of people.”

Internet usage in general has clearly increased over the past decade, with 68.7 percent of homes boasting Internet access in 2009, compared with 41.5 percent in 2000, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

Monday, October 18, 2010

What are the signs of Internet addiction?

Even though I have been studying Internet addiction since the 90s, I keep getting the same question among reporters and clients alike, what are the signs of Internet addiction? Is it a matter of time? Yes, to some extent. If someone spends excessive time online for recreational purposes and it cuts into other needed tasks or duties for work, school, or within relationships, the use of the Internet could be considered compulsive. To fully define signs of Internet addiction, a set of diagnostic criteria were developed (in 1998 published in my first article on Internet addiction, this is also referred to as the Internet Addiction Diagnostic Questionnaire, an eighth-item screening instrument) to help see if you match the profile.

Ask yourself the following questions:

1. Do you feel preoccupied with the Internet (think about previous online activity or anticipate next online session)?
2. Do you feel the need to use the Internet with increasing amounts of time in order to achieve satisfaction?
3. Have you repeatedly made unsuccessful efforts to control, cut back, or stop Internet use?
4. Do you feel restless, moody, depressed, or irritable when attempting to cut down or stop Internet use?
5. Do you stay online longer than originally intended?
6. Have you jeopardized or risked the loss of significant relationship, job, educational or career opportunity because of the Internet?
7. Have you lied to family members, therapist, or others to conceal the extent of involvement with the Internet?
8. Do you use the Internet as a way of escaping from problems or of relieving a dysphoric mood (e.g., feelings of helplessness, guilt, anxiety, depression)?

If you answer 5 or more, you most likely fit the DSM-criteria for Internet addiction.