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Picture this: your teenager sitting on the couch, mindlessly devouring junk food and gallons of soda, eyes glazed from hours of playing video games, day after day for the summer months? No, that’s every parent’s nightmare! Video game addiction symptoms are real!

Unfortunately all of the structure and scheduling that occurs during the school year turns into unadulterated freedom in the summer months. With less structure and adult supervision, the summer is ripe with opportunities for video game addiction. Symptoms are many, know the warning signs.

video game addiction symptoms

Pacific Quest addresses video game addiction symptoms in troubled teens.

Most teenagers can and do play video games without developing any addiction. However, for some there is no question that their computer use and video game playing is unhealthy and excessive by anyone’s standards. For them video games take priority over all other activities, and development in other areas (school, relationships, clubs, sports) are sacrificed just so that more time can be spent in front of the computer or TV screen. It really does not matter if this is called an “addiction” or not.  People who continue to play video games excessively despite experiencing significant negative consequences in other areas of their lives are likely “hooked” on video games.

Wilderness therapy or outdoor therapeutic programs like Pacific Quest are also known to be a highly effectual and compelling way to treat teens struggling with obsessive Internet use and video game addictions. For teens that have been isolating themselves in these “virtual worlds,” reconnecting with other human beings and the power of nature is a critical aspect of the wilderness/outdoor experience.

Living in nature and outdoor environments can be both challenging and humbling. With proper guidance from the various experienced Pacific Quest specialists, participants become strong physically and emotionally as they tackle each challenge.

Pacific Quest has a holistic yet highly clinical approach to treatment. The experience is uniquely formatted and utilizes, among other things: individual and group therapy, organic gardening/horticultural therapy, an all -inclusive wellness program and Rites of Passage.

Popular Video Game Addictions 2016: Pokémon Go

In early July 2016, the Pokémon Go app outperformed all expectations. Over 7.5 million users of all ages had downloaded the game in the United States alone, sending Nintendo’s stock climbing by 10% in the first week. Pokémon Go and other popular video games like Mine Craft, Call Of Duty, and Grand Theft Auto are massively appealing.

Video Game Addiction Symptoms and Warning Signs

There are certain video game addiction symptoms and signs to watch for in your teen or young adult.

  • They are lying about or minimizing time spent playing video games. (Does your child tell you they spent 1 hour playing, but you know they played for 2 hours or more? Perhaps they are even lying about computer or video game use so that computer or video game privileges aren’t taken away.)
  • They exhibit defensive behavior. (Are you getting an angry reaction or an outright denial when asking your child about their video game playing?)
  • Most of their “free time,” non-school hours are spent on the computer or playing video games. Other parts of their life, like hobbies, schoolwork, friends, or sports can become neglected, because they are devoting more and more time to game play.
  • They are fatigued all the time, perhaps even falling asleep in school.
  • They are hiding feelings. Some kids and teens turn to video games as an escape, to avoid dealing with upsetting emotions, real-life problems and even anxiety, or depression.
  • They are not keeping up with homework and/or not turning in assignments on time.
  • They exhibit worsening irritable, cranky or agitated behavior when not playing video games on TV or the computer.

Keeping documentation and logs of when your child plays and for how long, what are the problems that are resulting from gaming and how your child reacts to time limits will help if there is a potential problem and you intend to seek professional help.

What Makes Some Video Games SO Addictive?

There are numerous studies showing that, for some, games have the same effect on their brain as habit-forming drugs; that playing video games floods the player’s brain with dopamine, a mood-regulating hormone that induces pleasurable feelings. Scientists liken this hit of dopamine to that observed following intravenous injections of amphetamine or methylphenidate, a drug used to treat ADHD.

The psychologically addictive elements of video gaming become even more troublesome when you consider that they affect young people precisely at the time when their developing brains are being hardwired for life. Video games present a source of stimulation: because games provide intense visual & auditory action, they can be very compelling for thrill or excitement seekers (especially those with ADD/ADHD). They also provide negative reinforcement: when game playing provides rapid relief of emotional teen pain or angst, it can become habit-forming.

There are several different “hooks” programmed into games that keep players riveted to the virtual action. Not all of them exist in every single game, but the more that are present, the greater the chance of teenaged video game players becoming hooked.

  • Beating the Game. For this hook, the desire to beat the game increases as a player “levels up,” or finds the next hidden clue. To conquer a game, one must spend untold hours navigating increasingly difficult levels. Video games are designed to feed a never-ending and growing appetite for more and more and more…requiring searching every nook and cranny of screen space for hidden bonuses, leading to the second addictive quality etc…
  • Some games are entirely about traversing and studying imaginary worlds. That’s a powerful draw made stronger by the inclusion of secret levels, which have been built into video games since the earliest edition of “Super Mario Bros.”
  • Video game programmers build feedback into the game (i.e. hand controllers vibrate when your player is “shot”) so that players get visual and physical responses to what they’re doing onscreen. Psychologically, this fuels the learning process, making the player even more eager to ‘master’ elements of the game.
  • The High Score. This is probably the most easily-recognizable hook. Of course, beating the high score has been an incentive since the earliest pinball machines and video games I played at the candy store in the 1980’s. But video games now are different in that the higher you go, the more difficult the game becomes. Players spend countless hours trying to get a new high score, even if the one they’re besting is their own.
  • Story-Driven & Role-Playing. Everyone wants to know how the story ends, whether it’s a children’s fairy tale or a plot-driven video game. Some games let teens control an onscreen figure, but role-playing games go much deeper by allowing the player to create and become the character in a story. An emotional attachment to the character and the story makes it much harder to stop playing which is why more and more games are constructed around a foundational story.
  • These games hook teens because they involve exploring imaginary worlds. This adventure/thrill of discovery (even of places that don’t really exist) can be extremely compelling.
  • Boys and girls love the thrill of competition. With multiplayer options, teens can take on both the game and other gamers for “bragging Pacrights.” It seems some committed fans go so far as to schedule activities and sleep patterns to accommodate a network of online partners or opponents.
  • Online role-playing games allow teens to build relationships with other players. This online community of peers becomes the place where players are most accepted, which draws them back. The fantasy of role-playing games let teens create personas that are much different from who they are in real life. For example, an overweight, athletically challenged boy can become a muscle-bound superhero in an online world, thus making friends with people who would not normally associate with him. Pressure to keep up with online peers also produces powerful incentives to keep improving.

Effective Interventions Wilderness Therapy For Video Game Addiction Symptoms

In treating video game addictions teens and adults alike have in wilderness therapy programs, the opportunity and undistracted time to gain a firm grasp on emotions by practicing mindfulness or mind-body relaxation techniques. They can parcel off a portion of a day for quiet, stillness and solitude, calm breathing and deeper mediation work. It is this kind of intentional care that seems to have lasting positive effects on mental health. “Grasping and caring for the health of the mind-body connection is a mainstay of therapy programs for young people. Without the health of the mind, the body suffers. Without the health of the body, the mind suffers. When that connection is made between the two, striving for optimal, whole health is possible.”

By rising to the wilderness challenge, people discover they are capable of thriving in any environment, even without the comforts of home. When the computers, televisions, video games, and other distractions are removed, people are left with vast open spaces and the stillness of nature to reflect on their lives, their mistakes, and their relationships at home. They can learn to appreciate the simple things – water, food, a warm place to sleep, and eventually friends and family. For people who have isolated themselves in a virtual world, this reconnection with other human beings is a critical part of the wilderness therapy experience.

Beneficial Outcomes For Video Game Addiction Therapy

From the beginning to the end of their treatment, teens and young adults are guided as they go through the wilderness experience at Pacific Quest , providing structure, boundaries, nurturing and healing all along the way.

  • At Pacific Quest they learn:
    • Cooperation, communication and teamwork
    • To control their own behaviors and responses
    • To accept rules and boundaries
    • To foster meaningful relationships with others
    • “Real world” tasks and skills
    • Appreciation for simple things: water, food, a warm place to sleep, friends and families
    • “Back to basics” approach helps teens shed destructive learned behaviors and start fresh.
    • Teens learn that they can control their own behavior, but cannot change rules, environment, weather or other people.
    • Teens learn about boundaries and immediate consequences for their actions.
    • Learning real life skills, such as gardening, self-care, coping mechanisms and personal responsibility.
    • Learning the value of teamwork and fostering meaningful relationships.
    • Removal of distractions and stillness of nature leaves space for teens to reflect and appreciate simple things.
    • Teens are empowered to make healthy choices for themselves

Pacific Quest For Video Game Addiction

Pacific Quest works with an integrative clinical practice, grounded in the foundations of Horticultural Therapy, experiential learning, a holistic approach to wellbeing, and the latest evidence in neuroscience and psychotherapy, Pacific Quest utilizes an integrative clinical practice model for Sustainable Growth. Each aspect of the Pacific Quest model is individualized and integrated to achieve lasting and meaningful change for video game addicts.

The “Neurosequential Model of Therapeutics” (NMT™) guides the therapeutic approach to clinical decision-making. NMT is an evidence-based approach to assessing persons needs and matching the right treatment modality to the person based on principles of neurodevelopment.

Many of our students come to Pacific Quest because traditional therapy methods have not been successful. They are often distressed and overwhelmed by the demands of everyday life. In our sensory-rich and dynamic environment, interventions are tailored to meet students where they are and to help them achieve optimal growth. And move past video game addiction

Based on the individual needs of the student, additional therapy sessions may be provided by other members of PQ’s clinical team. The entire team of experienced masters and doctoral-level clinicians bring expertise in a variety of therapeutic methods including: behavioral therapies, somatic experiencing, addictions, family systems, neuroscience, trauma, mind-body and expressive art therapies.  All students benefit from a highly collaborative clinical environment where therapists meet weekly to staff cases, share clinical knowledge and develop effective interventions.

Feel free to contact us with any of your questions and to set up a consultation on our office line, 808-937-5806, or email us.

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