Video Games and TV

Addiction to Video Games – 6 Common Problems To Watch For

Despite not appearing in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorder (DSM), there has been growing concern about people who appear to be obsessed with video games and spend far too much time playing.

Addiction to video games is being considered for upcoming editions of the DSM, but for now it is not recognized as an official clinical problem. Regardless of its unofficial status, there is little question that some individuals (whether they are kids, teenagers, or adults) play video games excessively and that video game addiction can create problems in other important areas of their lives.

This is not to imply that everyone who plays video games becomes addicted – in fact, only a small minority seem to develop significant problems. Millions of people play video games in moderation as a way to spend time with friends, relax after a stressful day, and as a simple form of entertainment.

Still, keeping gaming habits under control is not something that comes easily to everyone. For some people, online computer gaming becomes the most important thing in their lives. Academic performance declines as little attention is given to studying or school grades. Someone with an addiction to video games may miss work or neglect job-related responsibilities due to an obsession with a favorite game. Relationships may suffer when one partner is neglected in favor of video games.

When video games are no longer a simple diversion from the real world but an obsession that overtakes all other activities, this can lead to numerous negative consequences in the gamer’s life. Clearly, not all video game addicts will be affected in exactly the same way, but the list below details some of more common consequences of an addiction to video games.

Problems Associated with an Addiction to Video Games

1. Psychological

Some people dealing with an addiction to video games may also struggle with issues such as depression, low-self-esteem, high stress levels, and shyness / social anxiety. If they recognize the problems that excessive gaming is causing yet are unable to control it, they may also experience feelings of shame, guilt, or a sense of powerlessness. Note that while video game addiction can almost certainly be made worse by other psychological issues (e.g., depressed mood), it may also contribute to these problems in a circular fashion (e.g., depression encouraging excessive gaming, which makes the depression worse, which leads to more gaming…).

2. Physical and Health

Obviously, if one’s weekly activities are largely comprised of playing video games, health (and occasionally personal hygiene) may be neglected. People with an addiction to video games may no longer take part in previously enjoyed physical activities or exercise, may develop poor sleeping habits depending on gaming schedules, and may often choose unhealthy foods that simply are convenient to eat while gaming.

3. Family

An addiction to video games can cause problems within the family. For example, parents of a teenager who is addicted to video games may tolerate excessive gaming for a while (and hope that it goes away by itself), but if their child shows no signs of getting his gaming under control they will eventually demand change. The teen may become angry at his parents for “interfering” in his life, deny that it is causing any problems, and claim that it is “none of your business”. Families with a child or teen who is addicted to video games often have daily arguments about time limits on games and the neglect of other responsibilities.

4. Financial

Even for players who are not addicted, video games can be a very expensive form of entertainment. It is very easy to spend thousands of dollars on computer upgrades, new gaming consoles, subscriptions to online services, newly released games, and the latest expansion packs. Occasionally, people with an addiction to video games may be fired due to poor performance on the job (for example, prioritizing gaming over job responsibilities, playing games while at work, frequently showing up late, or missing work entirely in favor of gaming).

5. School / University

Academic success is often one of most obvious causalities of video game addiction. Children, teens, and university students who spend all their free time playing video games will almost certainly see their grades deteriorate. They may ignore upcoming deadlines, promise to study “tomorrow”, deny that they have homework, and rush through assignments so that they can continue playing.

6. Interpersonal Impact

As someone addicted to video games spends more and more hours in front of a computer or television screen, time spent with other people (friends and family) necessarily decreases. One-to-one in person contact with others is minimized and online / virtual contact is increased. For those who rarely spend time with others in person, online-only friends may not prevent a gaming addict from feeling socially isolated and disconnected from the world around him / her.

The Symptoms and Risks of Television Addiction

Is Too Much TV Harmful?

The Television Addiction Concept

Television addiction has been conceptualized and discussed since the 1970s, so it pre-dated some of the behavioral addictions that have since overtaken it in terms of scientific research and widespread acceptance, such as internet addiction. Although early research into TV addiction was limited, the concept of TV addiction was relatively well accepted by parents, educators, and journalists, as television watching became more common, particularly among children Parents have intuitively known and discussed the need to monitor and mange their kids’ screen time, long before the rise of the internet.

More recent surveys have shown that there is widespread public acceptance that television is addictive.

The Symptoms of Television Addiction

When TV addiction was studied in the 1970s, it was described as paralleling five of the seven DSM criteria used for diagnosing substance dependence. People who were addicted to television spent large amounts of their time watching it; they watched TV longer or more often than they intended; they made repeated unsuccessful efforts to cut down their TV watching; they withdrew from or gave up important social, family, or occupational activities in order to watch television; and they reported “withdrawal”-like symptoms of subjective discomfort when deprived of TV.

Studies conducted with self-identified TV addicts have shown that those considering themselves addicted to television were more generally unhappy, anxious, and withdrawn than other people who watch television, and used television watching to distract themselves from negative moods, worries and fears, and from boredom.

They may be somewhat more likely to be solitary, hostile, and lacking capacity for or interest in social connections with others, although it is unclear whether there is a causal link between these personality characteristics and TV addiction.

Other characteristics that have been associated with self identified TV addiction are susceptibility to boredom and the use of TV to fill time.

TV is used as a way to avoid rather then seek out stimulation. In addition, people who become addicted to TV have poor attentional control, guilt, and are prone to daydreams involving fear of failure.

The Risks of Television Addiction

Research has revealed disturbing evidence that excessive TV watching is associated with a shorter lifespan. Those in the highest risk category watched an average of 6 hours of television a day, and had a lifespan nearly 5 years shorter than people who did not watch TV.

But does TV itself cause the shorter lifespan? Perhaps not. The study’s authors have stated that the results may be caused by something else associated with excessive TV watching, such as overeating, lack of exercise, or depression.

Indeed, there are several addictive behaviors that lend themselves to hours of TV watching. Marijuana addiction and heroin addiction both tend to lead to many hours of sitting around doing nothing. People with chronic pain who are hooked on painkillers are often limited in their mobility so can’t get out and about. And while the focus of research into shopping addiction tends to be retail stores and online shopping, it may neglect one of the most compulsive scenarios for the shopaholic — the shopping channel.

TV may well be addictive, along with other forms of media, such as video game addiction, internet addiction, cybersex, and even smartphone addiction. And while it is quite possible that TV itself may be addictive, it seems likely that it co-exists with many other addictions that feed off the isolation that is felt by people with numerous other behavioral addictions and substance addictions.

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