Is video game addiction real? That was the question asked by researchers at Brigham Young University (BYU) in the United States in the longest research ever conducted on the subject. Scientists analyzed the symptoms and trajectories of addiction in electronic games for six years, from adolescence to early adulthood.
The research, published in the American Psychological Association’s Developmental Psychology Journal, determines the proportion of people susceptible to video game addiction. Scientists have found that, for 90% of gamers, electronic games are just a fun pastime, not harmful or representing negative consequences for a long time.
However, 10% of people can become really addicted to electronic games, with long-term consequences for mental, social and behavioral health. Addiction is characterized by excessive time spent playing video games, difficulty in stopping playing and interruption of other healthy activities due to games.
BYU search results
For six years, 385 adolescent video game users in the transition to adulthood answered several questionnaires once a year. The purpose of the questions was to measure symptoms such as depression, anxiety, aggression, delinquency, empathy, sociability, shyness. In addition, the questionnaires sought to identify levels of sensory reactivity, financial stress and problematic use of cell phones.
Two main characteristics of addicts in electronic games were found: being a man and having low levels of sociability. Higher levels of prosocial behavior, or voluntary behavior designed to benefit another person, tended to be a protective factor against symptoms of addiction.
In addition to these characteristics, the study also found three different trajectories of video game addiction. A low level of dependency was found in 72% of the adolescents surveyed. Another 18% had moderate symptoms over the course of the study and only 10% of adolescents showed increasing and worrying levels of addiction.
The study also deconstructed the stereotype of players who live in their parents’ basement, unable to support themselves financially or get a job because of their attachment to electronic games.
At least, in the case of the people who participated in this study, gamers addicted to video games appear to be as financially stable and have professional development equivalent to those who are not addicted.
Consequences of video game addiction
The 10% group of adolescents with a high degree of dependence had higher levels of depression, aggression, shyness, problematic cell phone use and anxiety than the non-pathological group, even when controlling the initial levels of many of these symptoms.
At the beginning, all the adolescents surveyed demonstrated to be equal in all these variables, which suggests that the use of electronic games may have been decisive for the development of negative results during the period of the research.
Treatment for addiction
Addiction to electronic games has already been classified as a disease by the World Health Organization (WHO). Some countries, such as the United Kingdom, have private clinics for the treatment of the disorder. In South Korea, Japan and China, governments have created devices to limit the excessive use of games.
In São Paulo, the Technological Dependencies Program of the Psychiatric Institute of Hospital das Clínicas has already served 400 patients over its 11 years of existence. Treatment lasts four and a half months, with psychotherapy sessions and may include medication for illnesses for depression or bipolar disorder.