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Internet Addiction (Gaming and Social Networking)

  • October 29, 2019

I work with the East Tennessee State University Department of Psychology; I’m a licensed clinical psychologist and associate professor. I want to talk to you today about online addictions. Use of internet, video games, and social media has risen dramatically in the past decade or so. It is noted in a 2013 literature review by researcher Derek Cust that over one billion people worldwide played online casino free credit singapore casinos, online computer games, video games and these numbers are increasing.

With increased use, we also see an increasing number of people who have problems with too much use. The Diagnostic Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders Fifth Edition, better known as DSM-5 (DSM-V), called for more research to determine whether a diagnosis of internet gaming disorder should be added. Use of social media and games can be quite benign and even beneficial. For example, I literally met my wife on Facebook, and that was great.

However, for some, gaming or social networking can spiral out of control and cause problems. It’s only when use takes on a compulsive quality that one might need to be concerned. But what seems compulsive to one might see like avid enthusiasm to another. Role playing games seem to be the most popular genre in the online environment where thousands of people can play simultaneously on the same platform.

It gives you an incredible amount of opportunity to interact with others, and that can be very reinforcing. And reinforcers are outcomes that increase the chances of a behavior recurring. Many are built into the games explicitly to make them fun to play, and many are delivered on what’s called a variable-ratio schedule of reinforcement, and that can make them somewhat addictive. This gives liberal rewards early on and then followed by an increase in effort to obtain fewer rewards of higher quality as the skill level of the player grows. And skill growth itself can be reinforcing as gaining mastery, gain social status and it unlocks new opportunities, levels, abilities, and other rewarding consequences. Social networking can be reinforcing because we like to connect with other people and share what goes on in our world and see what goes on in theirs.

As with substance abuse, online gaming and social media consumption offer an escape from problems and stressors, and so that’s another reinforcer. As with most things in moderation, there’s usually no problem. However, these reinforcing aspects can lead one to feel a compulsive need to engage in behaviors like this, and for some that can spin out of control. So the processes and consequences of online addiction are similar to substance abuse in terms of causing problems with relationships.

They tend to be less severe in terms of physical consequences; however, overuse of gaming, social networking can negatively impact sleep, and that could lead to problems with health, problems with safety, work-life. That 2013 Cust review of internet gaming addiction literature tells us that psychological consequences include, among other things: the sacrifice of real life relationships, loss of sleep and problems with sleep, neglect of work, education and socializing, obsessions with gaming, aggression and hostility, stress, dysfunctional coping, deteriorating academic achievement, problems with verbal memory, and low levels of reported well-being with high levels of reported loneliness. The 2013 statement from the DSM author said quote, “Gaming prompts a neurological response that influences feelings of pleasure and reward. And the result, in the extreme, is manifested as addictive behavior,” unquote. As Cust pointed out, brain imaging techniques have shown that areas of the brain are similar to those that are affected by both addictions to substances and addictions to gaming. We have similar issues with negative patterns of behavior, and these seem beyond the control of the person affected.

Another similarity to substance abuse is people don’t seem to realize they have a problem. Denial of a problem is thus a quality shared by people with various addictions. Whether substance abuse or pathologic gambling or compulsive sexual activity, pornography, consumption, klemptomania, et cetera. The same is true of gaming and social networking use. A common feature of addiction is a person experiencing the inability to control the impulse to do things or refrain from doing them which are inappropriate or damaging to themselves or others, Some games are tailored to males and a lot of the existing gaming addiction research is focused on males, but at this point, there are hundreds of scientific studies on the topic in the literature, and there are surely more to be published soon.

Yet many of the online games are equally appealing to males and females, and certainly social media appeals to people across sex, age, race, ethnicity socioeconomic status, et cetera. And social networking addiction. is also an emerging problem. It’s only begun to get scientific scrutiny. A quick search of the term “social media addiction,” “social networking addiction,” reveals only a handful of studies on the topics. Day after day, we’ll see more these as social media and other forms internet use become ever more prevalent.

A similar search for Internet addiction yields over a thousand scientific works. And looking to science helps us to understand that which is difficult to grasp on a personal level. You may or may not have wondered whether you’ve engaged in excessive versus normative use of gaming or social networking, and anecdotally, I had a student come up to me the other day and say she was going to start weaning herself off social media altogether. She had analyzed her own behavior and had to admit to herself she spent days, hours of the day scrolling through posts and feeds which she thought was getting in the way of getting important things done in her life. And I work with people clinically who have had serious problems with stopping gaming, literally spending most of their days and nights playing and that caused great difficulties for their significant others.

In one case, unemployment was an issue. The person I’m thinking of spent most of his time playing games where a significant other felt helpless because he wouldn’t look for work, and she had to take on all the family’s financial burdens. In psychology, we don’t say things like, “Well, she should just dump him.” That’s the kind of thing you hear from people who lack sophisticated knowledge of addictions, complicated relationship issues, and consequently, they give a lot of advice without a lot of wisdom.

We recognize that people don’t have the desire or sometimes the ability to dump someone they love just because they developed a problem. Signs of addiction may be obvious to others but again not necessarily the person in question. A major hallmark of a problem is that the amount of time one engages is is not normative compared others a similar to them. Someone who’s got a professional marketing job may have to use social media all time as part of their job and that would be normal, if not only normal but necessary. Video game developers would have to spend a lot of time gaming. Yet for the average user, what’s normal varies relative to peers and family members.

And so how do you determine if you have a problem? Well, we might modify some classic substance abuse screener questions and applying these issues, and I’ve got some for you now. These haven’t been scientifically validated, and that’s an important thing to have done, but addition average starting point if you’re a person who is just wondering. If you answer “yes” to any of the following, you might have a problem which might be addressed either on your own or with the help of professional. Have you ever felt that you should cut down on your gaming or social media use? Have you ever tried to cut down on your gaming or social media but failed to do so?

Have you ever r neglected friends or family because your gaming social media use? Do ever neglect important tasks at work or school because of your gaming social media use? Have your felt guilty or felt bad about the amount of time you spent doing these activities? In my opinion, any time something becomes a major problem in a valued relationship, therapy would likely be indicated assuming the person in question wants help. However, as we well know, many people who need help don’t seem to want it.

In those cases, the one negatively affected by the others addiction might benefit from therapy themselves to help support them as they figure out what to do in a difficult situation. Treating any addiction is hard to do. Professional help is often warranted. A few treatment centers dedicated to internet gaming additions have actually been established in Singapore, Southeast Asia, Europe, and the United States. However, any competent therapist who is a licensed practitioner, such as licensed clinical psychologist, licensed clinical social worker, licensed professional counselor, should be able to help with these kinds of problems. And great source to find a therapist is psychologytoday.com.

Candice Lawrence

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