The computer gambling addiction to the behavioral. Those affected play excessively on the computer and neglect their work, other interests and social contacts. If they are prevented from playing, they are nervous and irritable. Particularly at risk are male adolescents and young men. Read here, how to recognize a computer gambling addiction, how it is created and how it can be treated.
- Description: Computer gambling is one of the behavioral addictions. Those affected play excessively and neglect tasks, other interests and social activities
- symptoms: strong desire to play, increase in playing time, loss of control, playing despite negative consequences, abstinence from abstinence, withdrawal symptoms such as irritability and depression
- Causes or risk factors: et al Overactivation of the reward center, impaired emotional regulation, high impulsivity, weak self-control, low self-esteem, child-like characteristics, genetic factors
- Diagnosis: Over a period of one year increasing playing time, loss of control, loss of interest, ignoring negative consequences
- Therapy: Disease insight, will to abstinence, cognitive behavioral therapy with root cause analysis, triggers of behavior, alternative strategies, avoidance strategies, strengthening of abstinence will
- Forecast: Good at illness insight, willingness to coping and professional help – otherwise bad.
Computer Gambling: Description
The computer gambling or online gambling addiction is one of the behavioral addictions – such as the shopping addiction or gambling addiction. The “drug” on which those affected are dependent is therefore not a substance such as alcohol, nicotine or cocaine, but playing on a computer, console, tablet or smartphone.
So-called MMORPGs (Massively Multiplayer Online Role-Playing Games) are the most addictive and difficult addicts. In these role-playing games, several players in the form of self-designed fantasy figures (avatars) work together in a team to solve tasks in a virtual world.
Addicted computer gamers often play many hours a day. They neglect work and hobbies, friends and family, sometimes even food and sleep or personal hygiene. They continue to play when they are threatened with massive negative consequences due to excessive gambling: job loss, drop in performance at school or in college, separation from the partner, loss of friendships in the real world.
Young people and young adults are currently the most affected and among them predominantly boys and young men. Experts believe that in the future, more girls and women and middle-aged adults will develop a computer gambling addiction.
Computer gambling addiction: symptoms
Like affected substance addicts, dependent computer gamers also show the typical signs of addiction.
Computer game addicts feel an almost irresistible desire to sit down and play on the computer. This can go so far that not only tasks and social contacts, but even basic needs such as sleeping, eating and drinking are neglected.
loss of control
Once people with computer gambling are in front of the computer, there is no stopping them. Even if you are determined to play for a limited time, you can not stick to it, but play hour after hour.
If sufferers recognize that they have a problem or pressure their environment, they often try to restrict play. Usually they fail or only last a short time.
Physical withdrawal symptoms as in a substance dependence do not get computer game addicts. But they become irritable, anxious, depressed, or nervous when they have no opportunity to play or, for reasons of reason, renounce it.
Another main criterion for addictions is the so-called tolerance formation: The brain dulls over time, so that the dose of the drug must be increased to experience the desired “kick” again. Applied to computer gambling, this means playing more and more often and longer, or kicking only by reaching a higher level of play.
Continuing behavior despite negative consequences
Computer game addicts can not restrict their behavior or give up, even if they threaten massive consequences such as job loss or separation from the partner.
Stealth is not one of the six official addiction criteria – but it is also typical for addictions. The persons concerned are aware that their behavior is questionable. They try to hide the extent of their computer game activity from others. Family members, friends or even therapists are deceived about the real amount of time on the computer.
Computer Gambling: Causes and Risk Factors
Addictions arise from an interplay of genetic predisposition, mental and environmental factors. These parameters initiate neurobiological processes that lead to addiction. This also applies to computer gambling addiction.
Overactivation of the reward center
Like all addictions, computer gambling addiction is based on activation of the reward center in the brain. The Reward Center actually serves to reinforce behaviors that are good for us or that help to preserve the species: food and sex, for example, but also praise, affection and success.
Drugs and some activities cause large amounts of the messenger substance dopamine to be released, which strongly activate the reward center. In the computer gambling addiction, for example, it is the experience of success or recognition by the other players. The positive feeling, which is generated when playing, the player wants to experience again and again.
In addition, while playing negative emotions such as frustration, anxiety and grief can be reduced, which the player also experiences as a reward. This creates the so-called addiction memory: Anything that reminds the computer game addict to play, arouses the desire to play again.
Research shows that in the brain of computer game addicts similar physiological processes occur as under the influence of alcohol or drugs. Thus, the reward center of a computer game addict reacts to a screenshot of his favorite game similar to that of an alcoholic to the sight of his favorite drink.
Disturbed emotional regulation
At the same time, the brain is particularly sensitized to the connection between computer games and reward. The awareness that other behaviors can also create or negate positive feelings fades. The player literally forgets that there are other ways for him to regulate his feelings. Stimuli that are not related to the game, the player perceives increasingly weaker.
People with certain personality traits are more likely to develop an addiction disorder. This includes:
- high impulsivity: Very impulsive people react spontaneously without first considering the pros and cons of an action.
- weak self-control: Affected people find it particularly difficult to resist temptation.
- neuroticism: People with pronounced neuroticism tend to be emotionally unstable, pessimistic and anxious. They tend to dramatize problems. In computer games, they experience control over the world in which I move. that gives them a sense of security.
Low self esteem
Even people with low self-esteem or fears (especially social phobia) are more susceptible to computer gambling addiction, especially for RPGs in the form of massively multiplayer online role-playing games (MMORPGs):
They can thereby slip into a virtual role that corresponds to their personal ideal and in which they can perform heroic deeds. So they can achieve success and gain recognition, which they have failed in the analog world.
Another plus for those affected: If they work together with other tasks, they feel they belong to a group. Thus, the virtual world seems increasingly attractive to them than reality.
This can lead to a vicious circle: Due to the excessive playing, the player gets more and more problems in real life. Then he retires even more strongly into the virtual world. To actively deal with its problems is unlearned.
There are indications that early pronounced media use in childhood promotes the emergence of computer addiction. Anyone who has learned as a child that digital media can protect against boredom, sadness and frustration will also seek refuge later. Reinforcing also has a bad social involvement, so little support in the family or friends.
The environment can also help create a computer gambling addiction. A central role is played by stress. In the virtual world, the player can release steam and reduce stress. The fantasy world can also help escape a problematic reality – be it job or partnership issues, bullying, unemployment or other worries.
Addictions often occur in a family. For some addictions, such as alcohol addiction, it has already been shown that genetic factors make people particularly vulnerable to addiction. In the case of computer gambling this proof is still pending. However, scientists suspect that genetic predisposition also plays a role in behavioral craving.
Computer Gambling: Diagnosis
Not everyone who plays computer games persistently is addicted to it. Although the number of hours spent playing games increases the likelihood of computer gambling addiction, there is no number of hours to diagnose.
An important indication, however, is that someone increasingly spends more time with computer games – because that speaks for a tolerance. It is also crucial to the importance of playing in life, so if someone neglected other areas of life for playing and if he has lost control over the seasons.
Diagnostic criteria of WHO
In the current International Classification System for Diseases, the ICD10, computer gambling addiction is not yet treated as a separate disease. Strictly speaking, it is therefore not diagnosable as an illness.
The World Health Organization has now recognized the computer gambling addiction as an independent disease. The disease is therefore listed in the upcoming ICD11, which is to replace the ICD10 in January 2022.
According to the WHO definition, there is a computer gambling addiction, if someone has at least one year …
- subordinate its remaining activities to play, such as neglecting tasks, social contact and physical needs,
- has no control over the frequency and duration of the game,
- carries on with his excessive gambling behavior, although he faces negative consequences.
People who are computer-addicted often suffer from other mental and personality disorders. It is important to recognize these and treat them if necessary. Thus, excessive computer gaming can also be a coping strategy for other disease-related symptoms. Often a computer gambling addiction goes hand in hand with:
- anxiety disorders
- ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder)
In case of problematic handling of computer games, it should always be clarified whether it is actually an independent disease, whether the behavior is rooted in or parallel to another psychiatric disorder requiring treatment.
Computer Gambling Addiction: Therapy
Whether alcohol dependence, drug addiction or nicotine addiction: In addictions, abstinence is usually the only safe way out of addiction. This also applies to the computer gambling addiction. As with all addictions, the goal of abstinence for the addicted but initially a specter. A life without the addictive substance seems bleak or impossible. For outsiders such as friends, partners, parents, this is difficult to understand.
Illness is the first step
The first step to healing is therefore the insight into the illness, the realization “I am sick, I need help.” Without professional support the withdrawal from the addiction is usually not possible in the course of therapy and with increasing Abknabelung of the addict makes the person concerned increasingly the experience – I feel better without it.
Cognitive behavioral therapy
A cognitive-behavioral therapy geared specifically to computer game addiction can effectively support the withdrawal from addiction. At the heart of the therapy is first to analyze the triggering and sustaining conditions. These can be internal stimuli such as thoughts and feelings, but also external stimuli. The focus is on developing answers to questions such as:
- What causes the desire for computer games in me? (e.g., stress, fears, the sight of a computer, etc.)
- What needs does computer gaming do for me? (for example, stress reduction, banishing boredom, feeling successful, belonging to a team, etc.)
- What activities can replace computer games for me? (for example, relaxation exercises, sports, meeting friends)
- What improvements could a life without computer games open up? (for example more time for other activities and friends, better performance in school, education or job, more joy in life).
Therapeutic offers for computer game addicts usually consist of a combination of group and individual therapy. There is the possibility of outpatient treatment. In severe cases, however, in most cases inpatient treatment is required.
The fact that computer gambling addiction will be included in the ICD11 catalog from 2020 will improve access to appropriate therapies and the provision of such treatments in the future.
Computer Gambling: Forecast
Addictions can not be cured. The addiction is stored for a lifetime in the so-called addictive memory. This also applies to computer games. Anyone who starts again, the addiction soon expire with skin and hair.
However, one can learn with professional help to lead a fulfilling life without the addictive computer games. Above all, the person concerned learns that a fulfilling life for him / her is possible only without computer games. Prerequisite for this: The affected person recognizes and accepts that he is ill and needs help, and he has the desire to overcome the permanent pressure to overcome.
Some computer game addicts come by themselves to this finding and seek help independently. Others go under pressure only in a treatment. Of these, however, discovered a large part in the therapy, as it stands around him, and begins to tackle his addiction problem. Then the chances for liberation from the addiction grinder are good.
But there are also affected people who do not recognize their addictive behavior (want). Then chances are very bad to get away from computer games.
Computer Gambling: Tips for Relatives
Whether parents or life partner: If a close person spends a lot of time with computer games, his environment worries. It is important to know that not everyone who plays too much is addicted. However, if your child or friend conspicuously plays a lot, you should take the first step.
Rules for the duration of the game:
- Go to the perpetual player, show interest, explain the game, and try to understand the needs the game will satisfy. Does he play bored or does he flee to a parallel world because he has problems?
- Agree on clear rules for the computer game time, for example, not more than two hours a day.
- Help the person find or rediscover activities that bring joy in real life.
If computer gambling already takes on too much importance in life, or if the victim has fallen into a real dependency, such rules will not work.
Realizing that there is a problem at all is a major hurdle for any addicted person. This also applies to people who are not yet dependent, but for whom the substance is already an important life content or even Krückstock for problem solving.
Counseling centers continue to help
Relatives who seek a dialogue with the person concerned in such a situation should therefore not expect to be welcomed with open arms. The recognition of the problem, the necessity of a change is painful for those affected and takes time. So you have to search the conversation again and again. Get help from a family counseling center on how best to do it.
The aim is then to encourage the person concerned to go to a counseling center for computer gambling. There he meets people who are familiar with his problem, advise him without prejudice and support him on his way to therapy.
Computer gambling addiction: Further information
There are numerous offers for people with computer gambling addiction:
Of the Association Media Dependence is an offer of the Hannover Medical School:
First Aid Internet addiction is an offer of the Section for Addiction Medicine and Addiction Research at the University Clinic for Psychiatry and Psychotherapy in Tübingen:
Plan B is an initiative which among other things also offers online counseling for adolescents’ addiction problems: