Key Words: Minecraft, Clash of Clans, Grand Theft Auto, EverQuest, Call of Duty

Are you or your kids spending more and more time on the tablet, phone, or computer? Does the craving remind you of the desire for a drug? If so, there is an explanation. Video games (and gambling) activate internal dopamine and adrenaline systems, just like drugs such as cocaine and methamphetamine. It is no surprise then that going through video game withdrawal is similar to going through drug withdrawal, and is measurable in the blood and in MRI’s.

This is problematic enough for adults. Children (and adults under 25 years old) have brains that are still developing. It is really not understood how video games affect the minds of children. However, if we are to assume that effects may be similar to that of drug usage, we might conclude that video games slow or stop emotional development. This includes impulse control, emotional regulation, motivation, and attention.

Are you or your kids addicted to video games? Here is how the American Psychiatric Association defines addiction.

Four or more of the following in a 12-month period:

  • Needs increasing amount to achieve the desired excitement.
  • Is restless or irritable when attempting to stop or cut back.
  • Has made repeated, unsuccessful efforts to control, cut back, or stop.
  • Is often preoccupied with the substance/process.
  • Often uses when feeling distressed.
  • Lies to conceal the extent of use.
  • Has jeopardized or lost a significant relationship, job, education, or career opportunity by using.
  • Relies on others to provide money to relieve desperate financial situation caused by using.

Using video games can be a method of self-regulating fear or anxiety.  Consider a Brain Map and Neurofeedback to train better coping methods.  For more information, watch these videos:

If you or your child is struggling with impulsivity, inattentiveness, or emotional dysregulation, an important intervention to try is a digital media fast.  That’s right, cut it all out for a few weeks and see what happens.  More information here.

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