Playing doctors

I am officially sick.

Addiction as a medical condition

The American Society of Addiction Medecine defines addiction as the following:

Addiction is a primary, chronic disease involving brain reward, motivation, memory and related circuitry. Dysfunction in these circuits leads to characteristic biological, psychological, social and spiritual manifestations.

The society has expanded the definition of addiction based on an understanding that both psychoactive drugs and certain behaviors that produce a surge of dopamine in the midbrain are the biological substrate for addictive behavior. (Smith)

To complete the reasoning:

Physical manifestations of video game addiction are evident in players: dopamine(a naturally occurring chemical that affects emotions and controls feelings of pain and pleasure) is released, producing a feeling of euphoria. (Anand, 2007)

Substances that cause the brain to release dopamine include cocain and amphetamines. Both are considered strong drugs with some degree of docial stygma. One starts to see why you might be in more trouble than you thought.

Symptoms

Maressa Hecht Orzack who is the founder and coordinator of the Computer Addiction Service at McLean hospital MA and a member of the Harvard Medical School faculty has identified the following psycological symptoms to video game addiction:

  • Most non-school hours are spent on the computer or playing video games.
  • Falling asleep in school.
  • Not keeping up with assignments.
  • Declining grades.
  • Lying about computer or video game use.
  • Choosing to use the computer or play video games rather than see friends.
  • Dropping out of other social groups (clubs or sports).
  • Irritable when not playing a video game or on the computer.

Add to that the following physical symptoms:

  • Carpal tunnel syndrome
  • Sleep disturbances
  • Back and neck aches
  • Headaches
  • Dry eyes
  • Failure to eat regularly
  • Neglect of personal hygiene

I’ve already shared how many of these symptoms applied to me. It is striking that the clinical list matches so well my experience . . . hopefully not yours.

Hard to heal

To recap, there is a certain category of substances released by the brain responsible to reward behaviour positive for survival, dopamine among others. Ususally those substances are released by life-nurturing behavious such as eating, drinking or sex. Addictive behaviours cause the brain to release those same substances associated with survival. Over time addictive behaviour that have nothing to do with survival can climb up in the need hierarchy, leading to addiction.

In a letter to the editor, David E. Smith explains how once the reward paths of the brain have been hijacked by the addictive behaviour, addicts are logically aware that they do not need the drug, but survival drives tend to take precedence over logic.

Sadly it seems addiction cannot be cured but can at best be brought into remission through a program of treatment, abstinence from all psychoactive substances, and supported recovery. (Smith)

I hope this helps change your perception about your own and other’s condition. It did change mine.

“To heal and Protect” – Soraka

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