Author: Amanjot Kaur, M.D.
As a Child and Adult Psychiatrist, I have expertise in treating various mood disorders, anxiety disorders, behavioral problems and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). Additionally, I have special interest in treating patients with Technology addiction and Internet Gaming Disorder.
Internet and use of electronics have become part of our daily lives. We use it at work, at school, for fun, and for communicating with friends and family. Research has shown that excessive use of electronics can lead to Internet Gaming Disorder. This is a provisional diagnosis in DSM-5. The Internet Gaming disorder, if left untreated can have a significant impact on the young adult’s life.
What Is Internet Gaming Disorder?
Internet Gaming Disorder is persistent, recurrent, compulsive, and excessive use of internet-based games which leads to decline in person’s functioning. Internet Gaming Addiction is becoming a growing mental health concern around the world. Research has also shown a connection between media device use and disrupted sleep due to changes in brain’s melatonin level. Melatonin is a hormone that is responsible for sleep-wake cycle regulation and quality of sleep.
What Causes the Addiction?
There are many different causes why someone can become addicted to video games. Individuals with Internet Gaming Disorder perceive their virtual lives more gratifying as they re-create a character with attributes they wish they had in real life. They form relationships, develop a career, and accomplish things that would be impossible (or require far more effort) in the real world. Video games may offer an escape from the reality of the physical world and into a digital world where players can assume any identity they desire.
Instant gratification can explain the potentially addictive nature of these games.
Games are designed to give users instant gratification and feedback of their progress. Over time the brain gets used to this so when the user tries to quit one of the issues they face is that life does not tend to give feedback so quickly.
Another factor that makes video games addicting is that video games trigger dopamine release in the brain. Dopamine is a neurotransmitter that helps control the brain’s reward and pleasure centers. Dopamine also helps regulate movement and emotional responses, and it enables us not only to see rewards, but to take action to move toward them.
This is the same pleasure response pathway in the brain that is engaged when someone uses illicit substances or engages in online gambling.
It is important to note that individuals with Internet Gaming Disorder might have underlying psychiatric disorder that needs to be diagnosed and treated. These include ADHD, Social Anxiety, and Autism Spectrum Disorder just to name a few.