Videogame Addiction Is Social, Not Psychological, Says Clinic Founder

Videogame Addiction Is Social, Not Psychological, Says Clinic Founder

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Keith Bakker, founder of the first and only videogame addiction treatment clinic in Europe, says the vast majority of patients at his clinic are suffering from social difficulties rather than an actual psychological disorder.

Founded in 2006, the Smith & Jones Centre in Amsterdam has treated "hundreds of young gamers," according to a BBC report, but its treatment methods are changing with the realization that most gaming "addicts" are in fact suffering from "social problems." The clinic has experienced high levels of success with traditional treatment for people who partake in other addictive behaviors, but Bakker estimates that only accounts for roughly ten percent of gamers; for the remaining 90 percent, he said he no longer believes that addiction counseling is the best course of treatment.

"These kids come in showing some kind of symptoms that are similar to other addictions and chemical dependencies," he said. "But the more we work with these kids the less I believe we can call this addiction. What many of these kids need is their parents and their school teachers - this is a social problem."

"This gaming problem is a result of the society we live in today," he continued. "Eighty per cent of the young people we see have been bullied at school and feel isolated. Many of the symptoms they have can be solved by going back to good old fashioned communication." As a result, the clinic is now offering a program that focuses on developing "activity-based social and communications skills" that will help compulsive gamers cope with the pressures of society.

Bakker said the root cause of most videogame-addicted minors lies with parents who have "failed in their duty of care," adding that sometimes parents sometimes have to get tough. "It's a choice," he said. "These kids know exactly what they are doing and they just don't want to change. If no one is there to help them, then nothing will ever happen." However, he also pointed out that the vast majority of online gamers are over the age of 18, meaning they need to seek help on their own because they're beyond any form of legal parental intervention.

Research at the clinic also indicates that many of the negative emotions associated with excessive gameplay, like anger, powerlessness, isolation and frustration, are actually pre-existing causes, rather than symptoms, of compulsive gaming problems; Bakker said that if parents committed to a greater responsibility for their children, many of these feelings could be dealt with at their source rather than through a retreat into a virtual world.

"If I continue to call gaming an addiction it takes away the element of choice these people have. It's a complete shift in my thinking and also a shift in the thinking of my clinic and the way it treats these people," he said. "In most cases of compulsive gaming, it is not addiction and in that case, the solution lies elsewhere."

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Whew, didn't take long at all. Yay. And mind, it could have gone on for much longer. The real test is if the mainstream picks up on it.

Anyone who has played Everquest or WoW knows the addiction of those games is social (the story and graphics are bad jokes IMO). On the flip side though the addiction of most 1 player games is anti-social violence (thanks for your contribution to society FPSs). Making a good story is hard, but violence and tits.... that's gravy.

Anyway, to take this a step further after putting some extensive time in Home (5hours on the arcade machine I normally wouldnt look twice at, just to get a pair of shoes...???) and playing WoW for 2 years (5 hours in a raid to get.... a pair of shoes.....???) I understand what Home is, and hopefully now you do too. Call me a "dork" for liking WoW, or rag on the fact us older gamers like games for the social aspects, but as a recent article on this site has stated most adults don't even have one person they consider a "freind". I have 2 but neither are very interesting.....

i agree with him, i play games with most of my free time.(i don't have a girlfriend at the moment) and its not exactly like a drug addiction, if i wanted to i could go camping, or swimming ect. but there boring for me i find no entertainment value. i would call it a debuff on social skills....-3 charisma but it can be balanced by wearing a white suit and a cool hat..
+3 charisma

i wish one of these clinics would be established close where i live, i really need to get off this pc

Wasn't this article in the Australia's newspaper The Green Guide from The Age paper?

I have a feeling this video game addiction clinics will catch on. You will always hear about people playing to much video games. They will be news headlines for 1 week at the most. I love how he doesn't call gaming an addiction as much as it is a choice, this guy clearly knows what he is talking about, he knows that people can stop but they wont have anything do to after they stop. Nice article.

This gentleman is made of Win. As a gamer who is PROBABLY addicted, I agree thoroughly.

Highschool F**King SUCKED.

As it was told to me by a psychologist, the deciding factor of whether there is an addiction is control. If you are in control, no matter how much you may in engage in the activity, then you are not addicted. However, if you are not in control, then you are likely addicted. It doesn't matter how or what the circumstances are that lead to the addiction; it only matters whether it's there.

Now, he may have a point on finding novel ways of dealing with the factors that cause or reinforce this particular addiction. But, I have to disagree with saying it's not addiction. It may have a new component class, being social as opposed to physical or psychological, but it can still be an addiction because of the control factor. As far as I know, physical and psychological addictions can also be overcome with a choice, but the implementations of that choice and the methods of treatment are different.

geizr:
As it was told to me by a psychologist, the deciding factor of whether there is an addiction is control. If you are in control, no matter how much you may in engage in the activity, then you are not addicted. However, if you are not in control, then you are likely addicted. It doesn't matter how or what the circumstances are that lead to the addiction; it only matters whether it's there.

I may have read the article wrong, but it seems that the founder is saying that, while there are video game addicts, most of the cases he witnesses are a case of the person using video games to escape, and not that they must use it.

stompy:

geizr:
As it was told to me by a psychologist, the deciding factor of whether there is an addiction is control. If you are in control, no matter how much you may in engage in the activity, then you are not addicted. However, if you are not in control, then you are likely addicted. It doesn't matter how or what the circumstances are that lead to the addiction; it only matters whether it's there.

I may have read the article wrong, but it seems that the founder is saying that, while there are video game addicts, most of the cases he witnesses are a case of the person using video games to escape, and not that they must use it.

Yes, that is correct as long as the person is in control, then no matter how much they obsess or escape into video games, they are not addicted. It's when they are not in control that there is an addiction problem.

The point I was trying to make is to not take the article as a justification that video game addiction does not exist because of the control factor. It may not be as widespread as the media sometimes makes it out to be(of course, almost nothing is ever what the media makes it out to be), but that does not deny its existence, certainly not for the people going through it.

geizr:
Yes, that is correct as long as the person is in control, then no matter how much they obsess or escape into video games, they are not addicted. It's when they are not in control that there is an addiction problem.

The point I was trying to make is to not take the article as a justification that video game addiction does not exist because of the control factor. It may not be as widespread as the media sometimes makes it out to be(of course, almost nothing is ever what the media makes it out to be), but that does not deny its existence, certainly not for the people going through it.

Somehow, I doubt anyone here is stupid enough to suggest that video games do not present something to become addicted to by some people. And thank you for the insight into what classifies as addiction... I find psychology interesting.

Edit: Well, this teaches me to double-check my posts.

stompy:

geizr:
Yes, that is correct as long as the person is in control, then no matter how much they obsess or escape into video games, they are not addicted. It's when they are not in control that there is an addiction problem.

The point I was trying to make is to not take the article as a justification that video game addiction does not exist because of the control factor. It may not be as widespread as the media sometimes makes it out to be(of course, almost nothing is ever what the media makes it out to be), but that does not deny its existence, certainly not for the people going through it.

Somehow, I doubt anyone here is stupid enough to suggest that video games present something to become addicted to by some people. And thank you for the insight into what classifies as addiction... I find psychology interesting.

While I agree that what is classified as "gaming addiction" is most often simple social problems, it is possible to become addicted to video games. We generally only think of drug users or alcoholics as addicts when the word is used, but they aren't the limits of addiction. Take, for example, pathological gamblers. When they enter a casino, endorphins begin firing alongside many other neurotransmitters. The brain enters a euphoric state similar to drug use. Over time, the brain becomes accustomed to this euphoria, and this creates a new problem. The brain's tolerance to stimuli increases sharply. Neurotransmitters begin to fire less when not indulging in gambling. Being "out of the action" can cause severe irritability and sometimes physical withdrawal. It is no longer about winning money, it is about being in the action of the game to help them feel normal.

Now apply this concept to video games. They offer encouragement both when you succeed and fail. Winning or leveling up presents you with a splash screen and statistics of how awesome you are. Failure offers you retries, hints, or challenges you to do better. Eventually, you can see similar traits of pathological gamblers occur in video game addicts. Yes, it can in fact be a psychological and physical addiction, but it is not the norm. It is widely suggested that addictions such as these have an inherent genetic component to them. Again, rare but possible.

BleachedBlind:

stompy:

geizr:
Yes, that is correct as long as the person is in control, then no matter how much they obsess or escape into video games, they are not addicted. It's when they are not in control that there is an addiction problem.

The point I was trying to make is to not take the article as a justification that video game addiction does not exist because of the control factor. It may not be as widespread as the media sometimes makes it out to be(of course, almost nothing is ever what the media makes it out to be), but that does not deny its existence, certainly not for the people going through it.

Somehow, I doubt anyone here is stupid enough to suggest that video games present something to become addicted to by some people. And thank you for the insight into what classifies as addiction... I find psychology interesting.

While I agree that what is classified as "gaming addiction" is most often simple social problems, it is possible to become addicted to video games. We generally only think of drug users or alcoholics as addicts when the word is used, but they aren't the limits of addiction. Take, for example, pathological gamblers. When they enter a casino, endorphins begin firing alongside many other neurotransmitters. The brain enters a euphoric state similar to drug use. Over time, the brain becomes accustomed to this euphoria, and this creates a new problem. The brain's tolerance to stimuli increases sharply. Neurotransmitters begin to fire less when not indulging in gambling. Being "out of the action" can cause severe irritability and sometimes physical withdrawal. It is no longer about winning money, it is about being in the action of the game to help them feel normal.

Now apply this concept to video games. They offer encouragement both when you succeed and fail. Winning or leveling up presents you with a splash screen and statistics of how awesome you are. Failure offers you retries, hints, or challenges you to do better. Eventually, you can see similar traits of pathological gamblers occur in video game addicts. Yes, it can in fact be a psychological and physical addiction, but it is not the norm. It is widely suggested that addictions such as these have an inherent genetic component to them. Again, rare but possible.

Well said... and as a former WoW addict being away from the game only made me want to go back to the game. The problem IMO of this topic is when we delve deep into the human brain we find even our love of our parents is based on addiction. To me the real question of if something is a "negative" addiction is if it is self destructive. I have spent my grocery money on coke (not proud of it), but I only buy 3-5 games a year (pirate 0 FYI) and I never heard of anyone suckn a "blank" for an epic.... if you have please give them my number :)

BleachedBlind:
Post

I see your logic, and it is a valuable addition to this discussion. However, you have wasted your time to try and convince me, since I meant to say "it would be stupid to say that video games didn't present something to become addicted to". Sorry, typing error on my part.

Being addicted to video games is like being addicted to breathing for me. Amount is the only variable here.

I think it's fair to say if you have more than 100 posts on The Escapist, or any other major gaming board, you're probably an "addict" - after all, he's insisting that we're not addicts in the traditional sense. Not just "addicted" to the games themselves, but addicted to the culture - in other words, it's a social condition. No different to the guy who goes out clubbing four times a week, the guy who goes to gigs twice a week, and spend all their free time discussing these things constantly with their friends and especially online.
I love how the internet has connected "people like us" - anyone with a specific hobby and social wants that is difficult to meet just by going outside and talking to people.

All addictions use the same reasoning, that something drove the patient to the addiction in the first place. In all addictions, the addiction is merely the symptom of the larger problem. In this case, it seems to be social isolation that drives people to excessive video game consumption.

However I genuinely believe that there is gaming addiction in this world and it pertains to a audio visual triggering in the cerebral cortex. The brain gets used to this type of stimulation and when you try to take away that stimulation the brain isn't going to let you.

The addiction is real. It's naive to say that you can cure it by letting the patient still play video games but work on real world communication. Yes, you're getting at the reason why the patient turned to video games but the patient's brain is still going to be yelling for the stimulation.

stompy:

BleachedBlind:
Post

I see your logic, and it is a valuable addition to this discussion. However, you have wasted your time to try and convince me, since I meant to say "it would be stupid to say that video games didn't present something to become addicted to". Sorry, typing error on my part.

If anybody learned anything, it was worth it all the same.

Now using common sense isn't that hard, is it? Now get the remaining 10% their OCD treatment they need alot more then the counselling they receive at the moment.

Hey Joe:
All addictions use the same reasoning, that something drove the patient to the addiction in the first place. In all addictions, the addiction is merely the symptom of the larger problem. In this case, it seems to be social isolation that drives people to excessive video game consumption.

However I genuinely believe that there is gaming addiction in this world and it pertains to a audio visual triggering in the cerebral cortex. The brain gets used to this type of stimulation and when you try to take away that stimulation the brain isn't going to let you.

The addiction is real. It's naive to say that you can cure it by letting the patient still play video games but work on real world communication. Yes, you're getting at the reason why the patient turned to video games but the patient's brain is still going to be yelling for the stimulation.

This is the key problem that I have with the thinking that the addiction is not there just because it has root causes in social problems. A lot of addictions have root causes in social problems. However, once the addiction has taken hold, it doesn't matter what started it, only that it is there. One has to deal with the root problems leading to the addiction, to be sure, to prevent relapse and reinforcement of the addiction. However, one also has to deal with that control switch in the brain that forms the addiction, and that's usually a separate treatment.

Just to reiterate what a psychologist told me about addiction, control is the distinguishing factor of whether a habit is addiction or not. If you are in control, then no matter how much you engage the habit, you are not addicted. It's once you lose control that you are addicted.

And just to echo, gaming addiction is quite real to the person going through it. That's what the gamers who think gaming addiction doesn't exist don't realize. Of course, they are probably just protecting turf by denying gaming addiction.

 

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