Leigh Richardson: Internet Gaming Disorder – When It Becomes Addicting

Gaming is a common hobby, de-stressor and recreational thing to do at the end of the day. Millions of people play and love video games. But what happens when that’s all they do? Brain Health Expert Leigh Richardson discussed video games and how to tell if it’s gone too far.

I used to think it was just playing games and having fun, and it is that, but it’s when you kind of cross the line and you take it from a point of where it is fun and something you do with your family to where you’re ‘compulsed’ about it,” Leigh says. “You’re thinking about games even when you’re not playing it. And you’re planning when you can do it next. When you’re being deceptive or lying about how much time you’re spending on games; when they take that game away, and you melt down, and get mad and angry and irritable and anxious and sad…

Leigh says that even children can get “addicted” by making distinction that it’s not just kids making a choice; the brain is where addiction takes place, she says.

Well, you know it’s more than just a kid making a choice. So, let’s think about what happens in the brain when you’re playing that game. Because addiction is really a disease in the brain. You’re playing that game, you know, and you see this zombie coming at you with this pipe and ‘oh my goodness!’ you throw that body and brain into a state of hyper-arousal. And that’s the flight or fight state…and when you get in that fight or flight state too often or too intensely, the brain and the body have trouble regulating back to a calm state.

The thing going on, Leigh says, is that the brain’s pleasure principle comes into play. You’re liking it, and the brain starts to release the neurotransmitter called dopamine–a real “feel good” transmitter. So, the more you play it and release it, the more confused nerve cells become. It goes from “I like to do this” to “I need to do this.” That’s where addiction comes in, and it can take place in an 8-year-old or a 28-year-old.

Leigh says to set restrictions for yourself and your kids to combat this easy-to-miss compulsion.