Video games are an addiction

Recognize and understand computer game addiction


"Addiction" is a topic that one doesn't like to talk about. If this term is used, images of heroin addicts who are begging for a few euros in the area around the train station appear almost automatically in the mind's eye. However, this image, which was strongly influenced by films such as "Wir Kinder vom Bahnhof Zoo" in the 1980s, only confronts us with one type of addiction: drug addiction. However, addiction to nicotine, alcohol or even marijuana has become part of everyday life in society. These "soft" drugs, as they are called, have less of the horror of a syringe - but are no less dangerous. Like the wolf in sheep's clothing, it is precisely the assumption that these drugs are not so easily addictive that poses a particular danger. Continuous drug consumption creates a so-called tolerance, so that ultimately larger and larger amounts of drugs are necessary to achieve the same effect. Increasingly dosed, the body gets used to the supply of the drug and adapts certain body-own processes (e.g. biochemical). If the drug is not taken, withdrawal symptoms occur. Physical dependence is the result.
But physical is not the only form of addiction that drugs can cause. So-called psychological addiction is no less dangerous. An example of addiction that has purely psychological causes is gambling addiction. In gambling addiction, the addict compensates for psychological grievances through gambling. Social circumstances that cause problems for the person affected can, for example, trigger the search for a way out through gambling. Since in gambling there are usually not only defeats but also experiences of success, the addict experiences gambling as a positive regulation of his existing negative state, experiences a kind of happiness. Over time, the body gets used to this way of dealing with problems. The body learns to regulate psychological grievances from now on only through gambling behavior.

(Computer) gambling addiction
In the context of modern entertainment electronics, gambling addiction takes on a completely new dimension. In the last few months there has been repeated talk of computer addiction, internet addiction or computer game addiction, especially among children. A topic that is being discussed more and more in the media for good reason. But the doctors are also sounding the alarm. The first clinic for computer game addicts in Europe recently opened in Amsterdam and research is being carried out in Berlin into the causes and extent of computer game addiction. Dr. Sabine Grüsser from the Interdisciplinary Addiction Research Group at Charité Berlin declared in 2005: "Excessive computer games probably activate the same structures in the brain as material drugs." The Berlin scientists had proven for the first time with brain physiological studies that excessive computer games can become an addiction based on mechanisms comparable to alcohol or cannabis addiction. The researchers also came to the conclusion that every 10th computer player meets the criteria for addiction. These numbers roughly coincide with those of cannabis addicts, of whom around every 10th user becomes addicted.
The addiction process is similar to that of the gambling addiction described above: the reward system is activated and positive experiences are stored in a kind of addiction memory. Little by little the body learns, e.g. B. To regulate stress states only in this way. Measurements of the brain waves showed that the brains of computer game addicts react exactly as those of e.g. B. Alcohol addicts who are offered the equivalent. Children and adolescents who have unrestricted access to computer games outside of parental control and who play computers for several hours a day are particularly at risk. The children concerned often try to escape their problems by playing computer games. Stress at school or with parents and disorientation in adolescence are common causes. Especially in the phase of adolescence, when the child should focus on finding their own position in society and planning their own ideas for the future, escaping problems in the order of virtual worlds can have devastating consequences. But how do I know if my child is at risk of addiction? The following section is intended to help parents recognize and correctly interpret the first signs of computer game addiction.

Computer game addiction: where does it start?
A core problem of computer game addiction research is that there is no general definition and corresponding criteria that define a clear distinction between "enthusiastic" and "addicted" gaming behavior. According to the international classification systems ICD-10 and DSM-IV, "pathological computer gaming" is not yet recorded. However, this circumstance does not negate the relevance that this topic obviously has, especially since other behavioral addictions are not described here.
In order to still be able to determine "pathological computer game behavior", the scientists are currently still orienting themselves on the criteria for pathological gambling. According to this, addictive behavior is characterized, among other things, by the following typical criteria:

- Positive effect on mood up to euphoria when exercising the behavior.

- Outstanding importance in the life of the person concerned, so that feeling, thinking and acting are dominated by it.

- The irresistible desire to exercise (repetition compulsion).

- Withdrawal symptoms and a tendency to relapse when trying to pause (inability to abstain).

-Loss of control as soon as problem behavior is started.

- Continued problem behavior despite massive conflicts in family, friends and at work or at school.

- withdrawal from other areas of life. For example, contact with friends is broken or hobbies that have been practiced up to now are given up.

However, it is not easy to tell whether a child is addicted to computer games or not. Nevertheless, it is imperative that you use the medium in a controlled and conscious manner. Here are a few specific tips for parents:

- Play together with the child and take part in the experiences they have had in the game. Show interest. This is the only way to get a differentiated picture of your child's play behavior. Let us explain to you what your child is doing in the game, what is important in the game and, if necessary, play the game yourself.

- Set fixed playing times and duration. It is recommended to organize this in such a way that a duration of 1.5 hours is not exceeded and that there are always computer game-free days between the days.

- Establish rules for overall media consumption. Wrong would be z. B. Allow 1.5 hours of computer games and 1.5 hours of television per day. It is better to let the child divide their time on the computer and on the television independently into 1.5 hours.

- Offer your child alternative ways to have a sense of achievement. These could be: sports, music or other hobbies that have nothing to do with the computer.

- Make sure the games are suitable for your child's age. Pay attention to the USK (USK Info) markings on the game packaging.

- Find out more, e.g. B. on the player advisor-nrw or in the specialty shop, about the content of the games. The USK markings serve to protect children from harm to young people. However, they do not contain any information about the educational suitability of games.

- Make sure that your child does not play any games that they have not discussed with you beforehand, especially if you do not have any information on the age ratings and the game content.

Signs of addiction should not be taken lightly. If parents can no longer have access to their children in the normal way, there are now addiction counseling centers in many cities that also deal with the topic of media addiction and can provide assistance and specific contact persons.

by Bastian Kreusing