Clearly, today’s digital screens are more prevalent and unavoidable than ever before. While most people are aware of the dangers and worries with television’s effects psychologically, some disagree. The hypnotic and addictive power of immersive and interactive digital screens on young minds is an altogether different animal. Research is indicating a more dopamine activating, potentially more addicting, effect than TV when in comparison to video games. And unfortunately, an increase in clinical disorders such as ADHD, aggression, mood disorders, and psychosis. Although video games were once considered a harmless form of activity and entertainment, today the need for video game addiction treatment is on the rise. If you or a loved one are in need of video game addiction treatment, finding the best help possible is a good start.
What Is Considered Video Game Addiction?
Video game addiction can be defined as the overuse and obsession-related behavior of an individual in playing video games that increases over time. Even despite the negative consequences and life altering problems of the individual using the technology/and or video games. What usually starts out as an hour of playing games or online use, can quickly become two hours a day the next week. To 4 hours a day the following week, and so on. What perhaps starts as one game, becomes two, becomes three, and so on. When video games seem to be the only way to relax, to bring joy and excitement, and become your focus in daily life- then video game addiction treatment should be considered.
The Dopamine And Video Game Addiction Connection
In order to fully understand video game addiction, we need to understand the brain’s reward system and the impact of dopaminergic behaviors on the reward pathway. How dopaminergic (dopamine activating) a behavior correlates very highly with the addictive potential of that behavior. Dopamine is the feel-good neurotransmitter that’s the most critical element in the addiction process. When a person performs an action that satisfies a need or fulfills a desire, dopamine is released into the nucleus accumbens, a cluster of nerve cells beneath the cerebral hemispheres that are associated with pleasure and reward, also known as the brain’s pleasure center. In simple terms, engaging in dopaminergic behavior increases dopamine levels so that the dopamine-reward pathway is activated, thus telling the individual to repeat what he or she just did in order to get that feel-good dopamine reward again. Research has shown that people who are predisposed toward addiction have lower baseline levels of dopamine and other feel-good neurotransmitters such as endorphins and norepinephrine; thus they’re more likely to get hooked on any behavior that increases dopamine simply because their brains crave it more than those of people who have normal baseline neurotransmitter levels.
Treatment for Technology And Video Game Addiction
The first step to treating addiction is recognizing that a problem exists. One of the primary problems with video gaming these days is the lack of accountability online, as well as the community or “friendship” online only when gaming. Users are hidden behind a screen and often engage in behavior that they would never do in person, giving them a false reality. Sometimes enabling behaviors and language that normally would not be acceptable or need corrective measures taken to resolve. Hence why video game addiction treatment should be sought as soon as possible in helping yourself or a loved one.
Omega Recovery understands that the first step to treating addiction is recognizing that a problem exists. Omega incorporates “Therapeutic Lifestyle Changes” into our clinical program, unplugging from our devices, engaging in a healing community, physical exercise and immersing our clients into nature. Omega Recovery also offers traditional evidence-based therapy to video game addiction, as well as other treatment modalities.
Video Game Addiction Treatment Modalities:
Our staff is trained in a variety of evidence-based treatment modalities. These interventions/strategies are practiced in individual and group therapy sessions and daily psychoeducational/didactic groups.
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) – is a treatment modality and a major aspect of our program. It is very common for individuals struggling with screen addiction to experience destructive and negative thinking or maladaptive thought patterns. Since our cognition affects our wellbeing, changing harmful thought patterns, which help clients, recognize their ability to practice alternative ways of thinking, and regulates distressing emotions and harmful behavior. As an evidence-based treatment modality, CBT is a proven effective treatment for substance use disorders, behavioral addictions, and specific mental health diagnoses. An active therapeutic modality, CBT is present-oriented, problem-focused, and goal-directed. Motivational Interviewing (MI) – is a collaborative, therapeutic conversation between licensed clinicians and clients that addresses the common problem of ambivalence for change. As defined by William Miller, the creator of MI, its purpose is to strengthen the client’s own motivation for and commitment to change in a manner that is consistent with said client’s values. Therefore, rather than imposing or forcing changes, we “meet the client where the client is” and help him/her move toward his/her goals by drawing out and building his/her readiness to change.
Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy (REBT) – Similar to CBT, Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy (REBT) helps clients identify, challenge, and replace their destructive thoughts and convictions with healthier, adaptive thoughts. Empirical studies demonstrate that this process incites emotional well-being and goal achievement.
Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT) – teaches clients how to regulate their emotions to reduce the self-destructive behaviors that derive from extreme, intense emotions. Primarily a skill-building approach, DBT focuses on the development of four key skill sets; Distress Tolerance, Emotion Regulation, Mindfulness (to live in the moment and fully experience emotions), Interpersonal Effectiveness.
Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MSBR) – Developed by Dr. Jon Cabot-Zinn, MSBR is a sequential method that teaches the individual who is struggling with racing and impulsive thoughts on how to be in the “here and now”. By focusing on the breath or on an object in the room, the client slowly becomes able to collapse their awareness into the present moment.
Seeking Safety (And Other Trauma-Focused Therapies) – Developed under a grant from the National Institute of Drug Abuse (NIDA) by Lisa M. Najavits, Ph.D., Seeking Safety is a present-focused therapy that helps clients attain safety from trauma (including PTSD) by emphasizing coping skills, grounding techniques and education. This highly effective, research-based therapy has seven key principles such as helping clients attain safety in their thinking, emotions, behaviors, and relationships, by integrated trauma treatment and focusing on ideals to counteract the loss of ideals that is experienced in mental health issues.
EMDR – is an evidence-based modality that has proven to be very effective in the treatment of trauma and PTSD, which are oftentimes the underlying issues that an addict is self-medicating. Thus, clinical staff trained in EMDR use this method to address and assist persons who have experienced trauma, which is significantly negatively impacting their recovery. EMDR incorporates elements of cognitive-behavioral therapy with eye movements; this form of stimulation is thought to “unfreeze” the brain’s information processing system in the amygdala and hippocampus that was frozen during or after the extreme stress of the traumatic event.
Recovery-Oriented Challenge Therapy – Sometimes also called Adventure Therapy or Outdoor Behavioral Health (OBH), this evidence-based technique is centered on an activity or “adventure” in which a clinical professional can actively engage with clients. Examples of Recovery-Orientated Challenge Therapy include: group challenges, outdoor activities, ropes courses, equine therapy, games, or other skill-building healing activities. Designed to help clients identify strengths and skills, build social support, strengthen their sense of focus of control, and address basic recovery issues, these groups assist with the development of self-care, boundaries, accountability, and trust. In addition, just being outdoors and immersed in nature has itself been proven to be therapeutic for a person stuck in a sedentary and addictive indoor lifestyle.
Experiential Therapies, i.e. Psychodrama – Many clients, especially younger clients, trapped in addictive and dysfunctional lifestyles, often benefit greatly from action-based and potentially transformative experiences. In psychodrama, the client can relive scenes from earlier in their lives that may have been turning points or “stuck” points in their addictive slide. The client is able to relive – and through the help of the clinician – change the toxic scene into one of breakthrough and empowerment.
In addition to the clinical modalities outlined above, Omega Recovery offers certain alternatives/holistic services that can help alleviate stress, anxiety, cravings, and promote overall wellness. All of which have been proven to help the distressed addict maintain a healthy mind-body-spirit balance which then aids in maintaining recovery. They include:
- Meditation Groups
- Restricted Environmental Stimulation Therapy (R.E.S.T.) AKA “Flotation Therapy”
- Acupuncture and Acupressure
- Art Therapy/Creative Expression
Why Omega Recovery Stands Out From The Rest
At Omega Recovery, we offer our clients the latest in addiction treatment through our community integrated treatment program. Traditional substance abuse treatment centers put the struggling individual in an artificial treatment bubble where its relatively easy to stay sober, but inevitably when that client leaves treatment, they are unprepared to deal with the stress of everyday life. In this “community integration” model the clients get to experience life; shopping in the supermarket, going on a barbeque, going to a doctors appointment, going on a job interview, all with staff supervision and clinical staff that can help process any and all the feelings and emotions that can so often arise in early recovery.
Clients are transported to clinical programming every weekday to participate in a vast array of treatment modalities that have been proven to be effective in treating substance abuse and mental health issues and addiction. During a typical week in programming clients will participate in motivational interviewing(MI), dialectical behavioral therapy(DBT), mindfulness meditation, relapse prevention, breathwork, and psychodrama. They will also have opportunities to participate in body movement therapies such as yoga, karate, and Qi Gong. Clients struggling with trauma will have the option to participate in eye movement desensitization and reprocessing(EMDR) facilitated by licensed, trained clinicians. Omega Recovery also utilizes the beautiful landscapes and parks of Austin, Texas for nature immersion groups and therapeutic excursions, such as rock climbing, ropes courses, kayaking, and hiking. Afternoons are spent at the Townlake YMCA participating in Active Recovery Coaching. Additionally, all treatment program clients will be able to receive psychiatric support from Omega’s medical director, Dr. Leon, and his team.
The housing component of Omega Recovery’s video game addiction treatment program is supported by a 24/7 staffed living environment. The living environments are gender-specific, meaning men and women are housed separately. Clients will have the opportunity to learn or relearn how to perform everyday tasks such as making dinner, doing chores, financial planning, and preparing for job interviews. They will be a part of a tight-knit community and will be encouraged to offer support to their housemates along their journey. They will be transported every evening to a peer-based recovery meeting in the community such as 12 step meetings, SMART recovery, or Refuge recovery. Any client struggling with mental health issues will have the opportunity to participate in some alternative recovery programs and will not be required to identify as an addict or alcoholic.
About Our Founder
Omega Recovery’s Chief Clinical Officer, Dr. Nicholas Kardaras, explains in his book “Glow Kids” how modern-day technology is equally if not more dopaminergic(addictive) than drugs and alcohol. Considered a leading expert in digital addiction, he has clinically worked with 1,000 individuals and written about the subject for Time, Scientific American, Psychology Today, Solan, and FOX News, and has appeared on Good Morning America, ABC’s 20/20, the CBS Evening News, CNN, FOX & Friends, NPR, and in Esquire, New York magazine, and Vanity Fair.
“Dr. Nicholas Kardaras believes that screens can be more difficult to treat than drugs. It’s no surprise that screen usage has skyrocketed, the actual numbers are nonetheless staggering: the average American adult spends more than 11 hours per day watching, reading, listening and interacting with screens. Clinically, screen addiction looks like any other addiction and characterized by a person continuing to engage in problematic behavior which negatively impacts their life. Those addicted to screens have seen their schooling, job prospects, and personal relationships suffer or even destroyed as a result of their addiction to screens and technology.”