Getting hooked to online gaming is not all that unusual, but getting so addicted that you forget to eat, sleep, pee or crap is extremely rare but it happens.
Two brothers in Delhi got so addicted to online gaming that they played for up to 18 hours a day without eating, sleeping or taking loo breaks. It got so bad they started urinating and defecating in their pants and did not notice that their home had been broken in -- not once but twice -- while they were their playing.
“Excessive use of the internet is a common complaint but it is not classified as an addiction. We do receive such complaints but this was a study case because of the severity of the condition,” said Dr Ankur Sachdeva, psychiatrist who treated the brothers and cited the case in the International Journal of High Risk Behaviours and Addiction in December 2015.
“More and more parents are coming in with complaints of children using the internet or playing games excessively. Roughly, there has been a 10% rise in such cases over the last five years,” said Dr Arti Anand, consultant psychologist at Sir Ganga Ram Hospital.
“Online games are virtual representations of life-like societies and a person with low self-esteem may find it comforting they need not interact directly with other people,” said Dr Sachdeva. Children who have this problem usually withdraw from social interactions and shut themselves out. They also have no interest in other activities, he said.
He suggests that parents keep a track of the online activities of their kids and report it to a doctor if they are obsessive about playing games or using certain websites. “Children who are addicted would often lie about the duration or make excuses for playing the games,” he said.
Counselling the parents is as important as counselling the children. “Apart from the behavioural and lifestyle changes we suggest in the children, we also ask the parents to spend more time with their children. It is important that they do not nag or make negative comments as the children might then rebel and go back to his habits,” said Dr Anand.
To manage the problems, parents need to decide a goal for the children and keep a check on the duration for which they can play the games. “Children who have this problem also suffer from irritability or depression, which was seen in the case of the two brothers who had to be given anti-depressants. Parents may encourage their children to participate in outdoor activities and stress management techniques like yoga or engage in other activities like listening to music,” said Dr Sachdeva.
Signs of gaming addiction
1. Playing for increasing amounts of time
2. Thinking about gaming while studying or doing other activities
3. Using gaming to escape stress, anxiety, depression
4. Lying to family and friends about how long you play
5. Getting restless, irritable and angry when asked to or try to cut down
6. Withdrawing from social networks, family and hobbies
Source: Center for On-Line Addiction