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Is a Loved One Gaming Too Much?

Internet Gaming can be Addictive

Do you have a young adult in your family who seems abnormally connected to the computer? Did you know that people can exhibit addictive behaviors to things like gambling, internet gaming, shopping, and even food? These are called Process Addictions. Just like substance abuse addictions (alcohol, drugs) it often starts out innocently enough but then certain people go further and further, “ingesting” more and more of the “substance.”

There is a neurotransmitter in the brain called dopamine. Dopamine makes a person feel good.  Years of research have determined that drugs, alcohol, gambling, sex, eating, and gaming involve changes in dopamine. The person becomes addicted to the “hits” of dopamine they receive through the behavior. They may try and cut back, only to fail and then end up increasing the time on the computer, or in the gaming, or in the drinking. A person with an internet gaming addiction can exhibit withdrawal symptoms similar to those who try and stop using drugs or alcohol.  The person could experience increased anxiety, anger, depression, irritability and social isolation.

“But, at least he’s not drinking!” We often hear that from parents. Many people play games on the computer. So, if you have a “computer person” in your family, how do you know if there is a problem?  Ask yourself these questions:  Does there seem to be a compulsive pattern to the gaming? Does the person have balance in his life? In other words, does the gaming behavior seem to interfere with one or more major spheres of his life: relationships, work, academic performance, health, finances or legal status?

There are people you can talk to about your concerns.  There are many resources on the internet, of course. there is even an On-Line Gamers Anonymous (www.olganon.org). For help with a gambling problem, go to www.baltimoregambler.org.  Of course, you can always make an appointment with an EAP counselor to discuss concerns about yourself or family members. Call 410.328.5860 to schedule an appointment.