Disordered gaming behavior received official recognition as a mental health condition by the World Health Organization (WHO) in the 11th edition of its International Classification of Diseases (ICD-11). According to that guide, gaming disorder is marked by “impaired control” over gaming, which leads to it taking priority over other interests and activities. The gaming behavior persists even as it causes “significant impairment” in areas such as personal relationships, school, or work. Research has shown that over 59% of all Americans have access to and engage in video games. (The Debate Over Video Game Addiction, n.d.)
As technology has expanded, we have seen how many avenues of support have been created for people who struggle with gaming addiction.
What types of online support groups are available? Here are a few that you can find near you:
- Online Gamers Anonymous (OLGA).
- Computer Gaming Addicts Anonymous.
- Online Gamers Anonymous Family Members (OLG-Anon)
While many professionals agree that support groups can help in the recovery process, at what point do they prevent change? Can someone who is struggling with screen addiction continue to succeed if using online support groups?
To answer these questions, we need to understand video game addiction as a whole and understand what type of support works for this specific addiction.
Why are people dependent on digital screens and video games?
The first step to understanding screen addiction is to understand what addictions and disorders fall under screen addiction. Here is a list that Omega Recovery has put together to give you a better idea:
- Internet gaming disorder.
- Video game addiction.
- Mobile phone dependence.
- Social media addiction.
- Problematic internet use.
In psychologist Dr. Aric Sigman’s research paper published in the Journal of the International Child Neurology Association, he writes: ” ‘Addiction’ is a term increasingly used to describe the growing number of children engaging in a variety of different screen activities in a dependent, problematic manner.” (Associates, 2020)
Technology has been able to find a way to fulfill the natural human need for interaction and stimulation. When a person is experiencing stress and cannot cope, they see that technology can fill their basic needs, and therefore has become addictive.
Technology can impact an individual’s brain’s pleasure systems that are like the way that substances do. The brain receives a message stating that technology is a reward or good thing because it can be an escape from reality, take the boredom away, or even be a way to become “social.”
Everyone wants to feel like they fit in or that they are good at something. Video games have that effect on many people. The individual gets to pick the game, the character, and they get to make all the rules in many games. For many people, this is the one place where they can feel like they are in complete control.
Video Gaming: What is Online Gamers Anonymous:
On-Line Gamers Anonymous® was founded by Liz Woolley in May of 2002 after her son, Shawn, committed suicide as a direct result of being addicted to an online game. Liz was soon joined by Ron Jaffe (Diggo McDiggity), a recovering gamer. They supported each other as the fellowship grew. (On-Line Gamers Anonymous®, n.d.)
The mission of OLGA is: On-Line Gamers Anonymous is a fellowship of people sharing their experience, strengths, and hope to support each other in recovering from problems resulting from excessive game playing.
Anyone affected by excessive gaming is welcome to join OLGA. The OLGA/OLG-Anon fellowship offers a spiritual solution for recovery. The 12-steps are provided as tools for healing from gaming addiction and are highly recommended for a successful recovery.
The Effects of Online Gaming:
Physical consequences of a Gaming Addiction:
- Significant body pain (wrist, neck, and elbow.)
- Skin blisters.
- Sleep Disorder.
- Hand issues (weakness or numbness.)
Other effects of Gaming Addiction:
- Reduction in motivation.
- Alexithymia (problems with feeling emotions) and emotional suppression.
- Poor mental health.
- Relationship issues.
- Social disconnection.
- Escapism (the tendency to seek distraction and relief from unpleasant realities, especially by seeking entertainment or engaging in fantasy.)
How online support groups can help:
Mental Health America states that support groups are safe spaces designed to help individuals discuss any number of issues about an illness or life struggle that they may be experiencing with individuals who are experiencing the same or similar problems. (Mental Health America, n.d.) the objective of support groups, ultimately, is to help participants feel less alone and find additional strength to navigate the complexities of the problem they face.
The significant benefits of online support groups are:
- Fluid information exchange.
- Continuous Availability.
- Access to those who are unable to travel or have other barriers.
- Being even more anonymous.
Takeaways on Support Groups as part of Video Game Addiction treatment:
Unlike other addiction treatments, researchers agree that completely avoiding the internet is not practical for people over 20. Instead, IAD treatment should focus on time management and balancing or controlling use. However, it is essential to avoid the specific applications if they are the root cause of your addiction.
So yes, someone struggling with screen addiction can continue to succeed while using online support groups if they implement boundaries for themselves and have support in place that does not involve technology.
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