Gaming dependence is a new menace for the society. Dependence is said to be present when the quantity of substance keeps on increasing; curtailing causes withdrawal symptoms; there is preoccupation with its procurement and consumption; and continuous use despite visible harms. Like drugs of dependence, mobile gaming also fulfills these criteria.
Although everyone is vulnerable, it is more prevalent in school- and college-going students. Neurobiologically, gaming addiction is similar to drug dependence. There is elevation of dopamine in the brain reward system.
The game developers generate goals which are not easy to achieve and not difficult to abandon, thus hooking them to it. The fantasy involved, and an aura of expectations and surprises make gamers feel excited. The individual importance given in games ends their craving for social identity.
Video games are of two types—standard and online multi-player. Standard videogames, which are downloaded once and require no internet, are played on single screen. Online multi-player games require multiple screens and internet, and played together by various players at their individual screens. They are generally endless and have more addictive potential.
Behaviour predictive of addiction
• Being mostly with gadgets; can’t keep mobile out of sight
• Irritability when taken away
• Increased playing time
• Gaming to escape from real-life difficulties
• Lying to friends and parents
• Mobile kept secretly
• Incomplete sleep, missing school/college
• Obesity or malnutrition
• Headaches, neck pain, backache
• Lacrimation,visual disturbances
• Bursitis and tendinitis
• Decreased self-care; in extreme, the gamer may even urinate and defecate in his clothes/room
• Caffeine/nicotine dependence
Social and occupational
• Undeveloped social etiquette
• Breakage of bondage with significant people
• Poor attendance and academics
• Loss of job and earning capacity
• Medical consequences eat up the finances
It is important not to fall into this dangerous trap.
• Gadget time should be proportional to academic and physical activity
• Monitor mobile activity since beginning
• Discipline child, if faulting
• Device-free dinner (family time without gadgets)
• Discuss gaming with child, stressing what is excessive
• Withdraw him completely from mobile, control resultant irritability and craving with counselling/medication
• Substitute with physical activities and hobbies
• Re-introduce mobile in monitored fashion after a prolonged gap; keep a timer
• Ensure consequences for disobeying schedule
• Seek help of a mental health professional in unmanageable cases
• Counselling for underlying academic or relationship problem
• One needs to lead by example—the elders should limit their mobile use
The author is Consultant Psychiatrist and Vice Chairperson, Institute of Psychiatry & Behaviour Sciences, Sir Ganga Ram Hospital, New Delhi