In today's times, the most talked about issue is internet, mobile and gaming addiction. We feel that it’s ok to spend some time on games, or mobile but we never realize when this wish becomes a habit and then it becomes dependence and finally addiction.
Let us first understand, what gaming addiction is?
A person is said to be addicted to games when we see a problematic, compulsive use of video games that results in significant impairment to an individual's ability to function in various life domains over prolonged times.
Games when used as an ENTERTAINMENT then its fine, but when we use it to such an extent that we become dependent on it then slowly we are moving towards ADDICTION.
We all use smart phone, we surf internet, watch social media stories, play games on mobile, play stations etc. we all do it. How do we understand that it has crossed the threshold and has become an addictive disorder and no more a recreational activity?
We keep thinking about the games or videos that we play or watch even when we are not watching the video or playing. Also, keep anticipating about what we are we going to play.
Only when we spend sufficient time over the net, we are satisfied. Otherwise, we feel that it’s incomplete and remain dissatisfied.
We feel that it’s not right and have tried to control our games and internet timings but we are unable to.
When we are unable to indulge in the usage of gaming and internet, we feel RESTLESS, MOODY, and IRRITABLE.
When we keep thinking of games all the time. Sometimes when someone talk to us, we don't listen to them, but think about gaming or social media
Feeling extremely hurt when you are unable to play.
Other things that you used to do earlier, now there is a loss of interest. e.g. you could be a good sports person but sudden interest in online gaming might make you more interested in gaming and less interested to go out and engage in sport activities.
When there is a mobile/internet/or gaming addiction, obviously there would be problems at school and work place.
There is shift of focus. The entire time is occupied in surfing, social media or gaming and certainly your productivity at work or performance at school is going to reduce. You could also be receiving warnings at school or work place.
Since we classify this as an addictive disorder it also throws some physical symptoms such as Exhaustion, poor sleep hygiene leading to insomnia, Aggression, dehydration, Obesity, Lethargy, sluggishness, slow metabolism, back pain and heart problems.
Psychological symptoms include Anger issues, mood swings, Anxiety, Stress, lack of social contact, depression.
How does this Gaming culture work and how we fall prey?
Most of games in the online gaming culture has the tendency of putting you in a “Compulsive Loop". ACTION -> REWARD -> PROGRESS/UPGRADE (involves money) -> ANTICIPATION. Games also have this concept of 'FUN FAILURES' or “ALMOST A WIN" which somewhere leaves a clue and an idea that victory is just round the corner. There is a psychological Drive to reclaim the loss, results in some irrational decision making. Some games also have punishments when you don't play enough.
What is happening to brain with these types of addiction?
What is happening in the brain with these types of addictions is very much similar to what happens in the brains of people addicted to substances like drugs or alcohol. The chemical changes in brain is very much the same. But do we take it as seriously as the later? Pandemic further increased our dependence on interest, social media, gaming pushing us further into the pit
All this while, we have been talking about only problems. What is the solution then ?
Moderation is the key. When games or internet is used in moderation it will help to pep up your mood by providing recreation,
Games or internet should be incorporated as a part of healthy lifestyles so that we use it when we like to, reap benefits out of it rather than falling prey to it.
Games are around, may be it will there always but how can we self-regulate ourselves. Sometimes we knowingly fall in the trap.
There should be a check in place so that we don't go overboard. For e.g. when we set an alarm then it’s an indication that we need to get up early. First we don't accept but slowly it accommodates to fact that we need to get up. Set proper time limit in the games
Fix a time say half an hour and set a stop watch or timer.
Keep gaming devices and gadgets out of bedroom.
Try applications in your phone or iPad which can be used to set limits and controls screen usage.
In the meanwhile distract yourself in other healthy activities like reading, cycling, going for a walk, spending time with your family, working on your hobbies.
Also spend time in some stress relieving activities like meditation yoga.
How can we help ourselves to come out of it?
The two Bs Boundaries and Balance in Internet use rather than eliminating it completely. There are certain apps that help us to limit screen time and gaming time.
Finding an Alternative healthy Entertainment and creating interest towards the same. It could be some hobbies that were left, which could be reintroduced.
When there is an addiction to gaming, social media or interest we are experiencing a social disconnect, So now it’s time to rewire your social connection talk to them and spend time with them.
Use of relaxation methods like deep breathing or meditation to manage anxiety symptoms resulting from the urge to use.
Be aware of your symptoms, be aware and keep track of your behavior, thoughts, and actions.
Finally if self-help strategies doesn’t help then it’s important to seek help.
There are many strategies like talk therapy and cognitive behavioral therapy that we use other than medications to treat such addictions.
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