Let’s face it… Computers are everywhere. Professors give online quizzes, there are chatrooms, music can be downloaded, and you can buy just about anything on the Internet, including a car.
Considering the stress of college, many students turn to the Internet for pleasure. Surfing the web and online gaming can be relaxing for many students. For some college students, however, online gaming becomes an addiction rather than a recreational activity.
We become obsessed with things due to many reasons. For some, playing online games becomes a bad habit. Others may use the Internet as a way to escape from tasks. Many feel a sense of competence and accomplishment from winning a game and then keep playing to maintain that feeling.
New research suggests that there may also be a biological explanation as to how people become addicted to video games. Playing video games triggers the release of dopamine, the “feel good” chemical in the brain. In fact, brain scans show that dopamine production in the brain doubles during video game play. Similar to eating sweets or drinking alcohol, people may continue to go online repeatedly to get this “feel good” chemical release.
Is Gaming a Hobby or an Addiction?
Here are some symptoms that indicate that you have an addiction:
- Unable to stop the activity.
- Neglect of family and friends.
- Lie to professors and family about activities.
- Miss classes; show up late to work.
- Failure to complete homework.
- Develop carpal tunnel syndrome and/or dry eyes.
- Failure to attend to personal hygiene.
- Experience sleep disturbances or changes in sleep patterns.
Ways to Reclaim Real-Time Living
- Take a technology holiday. You want to begin to train your nervous system to recognize that you can tolerate a day or an evening without participating in online gaming. Develop other interests aside from those using computers or the Internet.
- Exercise. Research supports the efficacy of exercise for improving psychological and addiction problems.
- Talk to your friends and family about your excessive Internet use. It's critical for you to avoid secrecy about your Internet use. If you keep the amount of time you spend online a secret, it can contribute to the experience of Internet addiction.
- Try counseling or psychotherapy to assist you in dealing with the addictive behavior. The support, acceptance, and coaching that a counselor provides can be of immeasurable help in getting a handle on a difficult behavior pattern.
- Develop new relationships and friendships. Although technology is stimulating, it may not provide the personal/emotional connection that real-time relationships do. We all need the presence of real people and engagement with them to fulfill the richer emotions of life. That’s how we grow.
- Shorten your Internet sessions. Because the Internet distorts the passage of time, take steps to ground yourself to the here-and-now. One way to do this is to increase your consciousness of the amount of time that you spend online. Try placing a clock next to the computer and set the alarm. The clock will act as a positive reminder to help you recognize the reality of passing time and hopefully act as an anchor to your real-time life.
- Watch your moods and behaviors that may prompt Internet abuse. You may resort to well-established patterns and coping mechanisms when bored, tired, hungry, or when feeling other strong emotions. Loneliness is also a common cause for spending excessive amounts of time online. Try to avoid recreational use of the Internet. Ideally, you should abstain from using the Internet. You can accomplish this by moving the computer to a more public place at home to discourage you from retreating to your familiar pattern of isolated use. Try to do your work at a time when you’re less likely to abuse the time online.
- Become aware of your rituals and triggers that prompt you to go online. A trigger is an associative link or connection to the addiction pattern. Every addiction creates numerous associations that are formed by behavior rituals (patterns) performed during the development of the addiction. These rituals become very conditioned to your whole behavior pattern and can serve to kick off the addictive cycle.