By JOHN M. GROHOL, PSY.D.
While it has long been suspected that video games can cause problems in a person’s life if they play them for too long, too often, more recent research confirms that video games do have an impact. There are things, however, that a person can do to reduce the impact of video game playing and reduce the likelihood of video game addiction seriously impacting a person’s life.
What to Do to Better Cope with Video Game Addiction
If you feel like you can’t part from your favorite video game or have run up huge gaming WoW bills unexpectedly, don’t worry, there are some steps you can take to bring your relationship with video games back down to earth.
Track your video game use. Yes, it’s a pain to do, but the more you keep track of the time you spend playing video games, the better you’ll be able to control it. Jot down in a notepad when you start and stop game play. Keep the journal for a week’s time, then review the amounts of time you’re spending on each game, or if it’s just one game, the activities that keep you in-game for so long.
Start the weaning. Now that you know you’re spending 20 hours a week on game play, it’s time to start cutting back. Take it slow and start with the least important game or activity in a game. Commit to reducing the time spent on that game or activity just 10% the first week. So if you’re spending 10 hours a week on planning for battles, aim for 9 hours the next week. That means being more conscious each time you’re in-game doing that activity, and trying to cut things short sooner rather than later.
Commit to being in the moment. One of the reasons people enjoy playing video games as much as they do is because it is very rewarding and often, fun. Most modern video games also offer a level of social interactivity with other players in the game, which is also rewarding. The key here is to prioritize what’s important in your life. If it’s more important for you to spend time with your online friends that your IRL friends or significant other, that’s your choice. But don’t expect your significant other to still be there when you decide you have time for him or her. It is a choice you make every time you pick up the control or sit at the keyboard, and it is one you have to become more conscious of in order to change that choice to one that can accommodate both in your life. Living life in the moment means, first of all, to live life outside of a screen.
You don’t need that kind of connection. So many people spend so much time online or in playing video games because they believe it is a necessary part of their connections with others, or with their ability to move forward in the game. For what purpose? If you need such hyperactive connectivity, that suggests something isn’t entirely healthy with some of those relationships to begin with. Or that the game was designed to only reward spending massive amounts of time playing it. Great for the game developers or publishers, who are enjoying your money. Not so great for you. While it’s fun for a time, it’s not going to lead to a higher-quality relationship or a better, more enjoyable life (especially if it’s creating anxiety and problems in your existing life).
Turn it off. Yes, that’s right. Turn it off. There’s no easier way to deal with video game addiction than to simply turn off the console or the computer and go out and do something different. By turning it off, you’re taking back conscious control of your life and this little piece of technology. Instead of it calling to you, you’re telling it, “Hey, I’ve had enough for one day. Seeya in the morning.” Set a deadline every evening for a time to retire game playing, and then don’t check or play it again until the next morning.
Technology works for us, not the other way around. If technology is taking control of your life — creating stress, anxiety, arguments with other people in your life, or financial hardships — then you have a backwards relationship with technology. Technology — including video games — works for us. If it’s not working for you, you’re chosen to be on the losing side of the relationship, and it’s time to put a stake in the ground and take responsibility and control for your use of the technology. Set aside specific times of the day or evening you will play your favorite video game, for instance, rather than doing so every spare moment you get. Instead of playing video games being the default thing you do, change the default to “living my life.”
Video game addiction doesn’t have to ruin your life, your work, or your relationships with others. If these tips still don’t help, it might be a sign that your video game addiction is more of an issue in your life than you realized. A psychotherapist who has experience in treating addictions can often help in such a case, and it is a treatment you should explore if you can’t reduce video game playing on your own.
However, not all is bad with gaming since many young people report feeling a sense of connection and agency in their world:
More research definitely points to the desensitization factors that are present in video gaming:
Might you have a Facebook addiction? Here is short informal quiz that helps you understand:
What might the intensity of your Facebook usage be?
Psychotropic drug prescriptions for teens surge 250 percent over 7 year period
Brandeis research takes first look ever at psychotropic prescribing trends among adolescents
Psychotropic drug prescriptions for teenagers skyrocketed 250 percent between 1994 and 2001, rising particularly sharply after 1999, when the federal government allowed direct-to-consumer advertising and looser promotion of off-label use of prescription drugs, according to a new Brandeis University study in the journal Psychiatric Services.
This dramatic increase in adolescent visits to health care professionals which resulted in a prescription for a psychotropic drug occurred despite the fact that few psychotropic drugs, typically prescribed for ADHD, depression and other mood disorders, are approved for use in children under 18. The study is one of the first to focus on prescriptions to adolescents, rather than children in general.
The study shows that by 2001, one in every ten of all office visits by teenage boys led to a prescription for a psychotropic drug. Other findings in the study show that a diagnosis of ADHD was given in about one-third of office visits during the study period. Also, between 14 and 26 percent of visits in which psychotropic medications were prescribed did not have an associated mental health diagnosis, said lead author Professor Cindy Parks Thomas, an expert on prescription drug trends, at Brandeis University’s Heller School for Social Policy and Management.
“There is an alarming increase in prescribing these drugs to teens, and the reasons for this trend need further scrutiny,” said Thomas. “Our study suggests a number of factors may be particularly important to assess, including the impact of direct-to-consumer advertising and other marketing strategies.”
Additional factors likely fueling the trend, noted by the authors, include greater acceptance among physicians and the public of psychotropic drugs, the advent of new medications with fewer side effects, increased screening for mental health disorders, and patient demand for such drugs. Nevertheless, the study noted that overall, pharmaceutical companies increased their spending on television advertising six fold, to $1.5 billion, between 1996 and 2000, with the trend accelerating after 1997, when the Food and Drug Administration Modernization Act was passed.
However, at the same time teenagers were being prescribed more psychotropic drugs than ever before, other prescription drugs taken by adolescents were trending down, said Thomas. For example, the use of antibiotics, the most widely prescribed drugs for teenagers, fell dramatically in response to widespread public educational campaigns about the dangers of antibiotic resistance due to overuse of these drugs.
“The dramatic increase in prescribing of psychotropic medications is of considerable concern, particularly because these medications are not without risks,” Thomas said.
Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 21 Feb 2009
Published on PsychCentral.com. All rights reserved.
By TRACI PEDERSEN Associate News Editor
Reviewed by John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on August 15, 2012
The number of children and teenagers being prescribed antipsychotic drugs has skyrocketed within the last few years, with psychiatrists prescribing the drugs in nearly one-in-three visits with youth, according to researchers.
“The growth in antipsychotic treatment of children — roughly eightfold in 17 years — is especially impressive,” said study author Dr. Mark Olfson, a professor of clinical psychiatry at the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Columbia University.
“Practice has overstepped research,” he said. “These rapidly rising rates of antipsychotic treatment in young people should give physicians pause.”
Mental health experts warn that these potent drugs can have serious side effects and that their effectiveness has not been proven in treating the disorders for which they’re often prescribed.
For the new study, Olfson and his team separated people into two group: children (up to 13 years old) and teens (ages 14-20).
The researchers examined data from doctor’s office visits from over several decades, and compared data from 1993 to 1998 with data from 2005 to 2009. The number of doctor’s visits in which an antipsychotic was prescribed jumped from 0.24 percent to 1.83 percent in children, and from 0.78 percent to 3.76 percent in teens.
“[That] is a pretty big leap — not huge, but substantial,” said Dr. Michael Houston, an associate clinical professor of psychiatry and pediatrics at the George Washington university medical center and a member of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry.
“Whether or not it is bad news is hard to determine,” added Houston, who was not involved with the study.
Doctors typically prescribed the drugs for ADHD and other behavior disorders, the researchers found, which is considered “off-label” use. The Food and Drug Administration has approved use of antipsychotics in young people primarily for treating schizophrenia, bipolar mania, Tourette’s syndrome and irritability resulting from autism. However, researchers found that these only accounted for a small portion of the prescriptions.
Risperidone was the most commonly prescribed antipsychotic medication, but the authors write that “uncertainty surrounds” the appropriateness of using that drug, as well as other antipsychotic medications, to treat ADHD and behavior disorders.
“Although antipsychotic medications can deliver rapid improvement in children with severe conduct problems and aggressive behaviors, it is not clear whether they are helpful for the larger group of children with ADHD,” Olfson said.
He also noted that there are other unanswered questions concerning antipsychotics’ long-term effect on children’s brains. Studies have shown that there are serious potential side effects, such as rapid weight gain and increased risk of diabetes.
The researchers gave several possible explanations as to why the drugs are being increasingly prescribed to young people.
One suggestion is that more and more children are being diagnosed with conditions such as bipolar disorder and autism spectrum disorders, and the FDA has approved the use of antipsychotics under those circumstances.
Or perhaps it’s simply the rise in the number of drugs—at least six new antipsychotics have been introduced to the market in the last 15 years.
“The factor that stands out the most—and is reflected in the study’s data—is that far fewer kids are receiving psychotherapy and other psychosocial interventions than we would like to see,” said Houston.
“When such medications are recommended, parents should ask a lot of questions,” he said. “’What other types of treatment, including therapy, are available? What are the possible risks, and how will my child be monitored to possibly avoid [them]? How long will my child be on this medication?’”
Source: Archives of General Psychiatry