HYDERABAD: While the World Health Organization (WHO) defined addiction to video games as a mental health disorder on Monday, city-based clinical psychiatrists say the condition is increasingly being witnessed even among children. Experts say that if the condition is left unchecked, they may even need therapy sessions at a later stage?
Most games are designed to be ‘immersive’ so that the attention of players is not diverted. Though at moderate levels these games help players develop their cognitive response, prolonged exposure can affect the way our brain is wired, say behavioural science experts. Not everyone who engages in gaming is susceptible to disorders, noted the WHO.
“Many parents install games on their phones and give it to their children so that they do not disturb them. However, prolonged usage makes them addicted. The issue is now becoming more serious than substance abuse as awareness levels are very low,” says clinical psychologist Radhika Acharya.
Take the case of 26-year-old Raghav Agarwal. He recalls how he was playing an online game on the morning of his Class-X board exams. “I don’t know what I was thinking back then,” says Raghav who now works as a steward with a private airline. “I failed the exams that year, even the re-exams. It took me a few years to finally quit and pull my life back together.”
“Younger people won’t realise that gaming will become a problem unless it becomes one and parents cannot keep an eye on them all the time as it’s not restricted to one form of gadget anymore,” says Ramesh Kumar Mishra, Head of Neural Cognitive sciences, University of Hyderabad.
“It can be helpful for those with cognitive related issues, but for a normal person it can affect his brain circuitry adversely.”
“Games are a fast stimulus for the brain which causes a heavy release of dopamine in the brain. So when the person repeats the activity that gives the dopamine, it becomes a need. If dopamine is not released, the person tends to get bored,” says Acharya. Dopamine is a neuro-transmitter that controls the brain’s reward and pleasure centres.
When it comes to children, gaming disorder may show up in the his/her behaviour, says Acharya, “There are scientific therapies centred around behaviour modification that can help the children come out of the addition,” she added.