Gaming addiction

From Gaming Addiction to Porn Addiction

Written By: Gentle Path

By Beau Black       

Video gaming has grown from niche entertainment for ’80s teenagers into a staple of our culture, alongside movies, TV, and music. In fact, gaming revenue worldwide brings in almost double the revenue of the global movie industry, according to MarketWatch.  The Consumer Technology Association (CTA), the organization that hosts the Consumer Electronics Show each year, says 2021 brought a milestone for the video game industry as more than half of US homes now own a video game console (53%, up 10% from 2020). What’s more is 30% of households plan to buy one in the next 12 months, making it a 43% jump from 2020.

Unfortunately, their ubiquity and sometime use as an electronic babysitter have led to a rise in problems with video and online gaming addiction. Studies indicate that between 4.6-8% of 8- to 18-year-olds show signs of video gaming addiction, as reported by FightTheNewDrug.org.

One specific study, conducted by Laura Stockdale and Sarah Coyne and cited by FightTheNewDrug.org, found that among college students surveyed on two large campuses, about 7% self-report signs of gaming addiction: “Video game addicts [consistently] reported more anxiety, depression, aggression, and lower positive affect and well-being. Video game addicts also displayed increased ADHD symptoms, poorer overall cognitive functioning, and poorer mental health.”

Internet-related addictions have not yet been admitted to Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (or DSM), the catalog of official mental disorders, but have been recognized by the World Health Organization (WHO). Some signs of gaming-related problems may include:

  • Decreased life satisfaction
  • Loneliness
  • Poorer academic achievement
  • Increased aggression
  • Increased depression and anxiety

Every hour, 600 kids find something on the internet sexual they find interesting. Two-hundred of them go on to have a lifetime problem [with porn addiction].

Meadows Senior Fellow Dr. Patrick Carnes

Some experts, including Meadows Senior Fellow and Gentle Path at The Meadows founder Dr. Patrick Carnes, are warning of a connection between gaming addiction and porn addiction. “Kids start off with gaming,” says Dr. Carnes in an upcoming Beyond Theory podcast, “which teaches the brain certain rules about conquest, novelty, things that appeal to the brain. So, then they discover something sexual, and they get what we call the super-normal stimulus, and it actually changes how the brain functions. And so, every hour, 600 kids find something on the internet sexual they find interesting. Two-hundred of them go on to have a lifetime problem [with porn addiction].” And, Dr. Carnes says, about half of those 200 are under age 11.

Stockdale and Coyne’s study found that, compared to non-addicts, video game addicts showed increased symptoms of problematic internet pornography use. “There is a vast body of literature that suggests that addicts of one type are at increased risk for developing addictions in other areas.” One of the traits of this group: lack of impulse control.

Stanford psychologist and professor emeritus Dr. Philip Zimbardo (of the famed Stanford Prison Experiment) published The Demise of Guys: Why Boys Are Struggling and What We Can Do About It. He says in his TED talk on the topic that boys are developing with “a new fear of intimacy,” especially with someone of the opposite sex. He references the “self-reported shyness of [male] college students” and how they do not understand social cues or how to talk to someone in person.

Both Dr. Zimbardo and Dr. Carnes single out novelty as a shared trait of both gaming and porn addiction. “Every compulsive gambler, alcoholic, or drug addict will tell you that they want increasingly more of a game or drink or drug to get the same quality of buzz,” writes Dr. Zimbardo on CNN.com. “Video game and porn addictions are different [from other addictions]. They are ‘arousal addictions,’ where the attraction is in the novelty, the variety, or the surprise factor of the content. Sameness is soon habituated; newness heightens excitement.”  He observes that young men’s brains are being rewired for change, novelty, excitement, and constant arousal, making them out of sync in a traditional classroom or in a relationship.

Dr. Zimbardo adds that seeking that new high can lead to isolation: “Porn may become a substitute for healthy face-to-face interactions, social or sexual.” According to Dr. Carnes, the two biggest reasons college students drop out are prescription drug abuse and porn addiction.

Dr. Carnes says that, completely overlooked by our media and culture, our society spends “four times the cost of COVID each year on addictions.” But there are strong pressures that protect the industry, mainly financial: “The flow of money within the porn industry, this is a huge amount of money. So, if you think about what we’re up against, think of, first of all, what we went through with big tobacco. Think of what NFL went through when we started to understand what was happening to our football stars, in that by the time they were 40, they had brain damage. NFL did not want to hear about that. Think of big food and our struggle with obesity in our culture which [affects] 30% of our grade school students … then there’s big trauma in sex addiction, and [the porn] industry is huge.”

“A lot of people are caught in things that they can’t stop and they don’t know how,” adds Dr. Carnes.

A lot of people are caught up in things they can’t stop and they don’t know how.

Meadows Senior Fellow Dr. Patrick Carnes

Finding Porn or Gaming Addiction Help

So, now what? If you’re struggling with either or both, what should you do?  Here are some practical steps, adapted from Healthline.com:

  • Establish new routines (to disrupt old patterns)
  • Trade virtual activities for in-person ones
  • Limit time spent online
  • Get rid of apps that invite trouble
  • Focus on the rewards of making changes/getting sober
  • List interactions and events you’ve missed because of your addiction
  • Join a group for support

Perhaps most importantly, find a treatment program like Gentle Path at The Meadows, or a therapist to help you make the changes you need to take your life back from your addiction.

According to Carnes, “Getting sober is not the issue. Staying sober — making a change that lasts — is the real issue.” You achieve that by moving into your “own excellence,” or “calling,” says Dr. Carnes. “[This is] something challenging, that you can improve at — that matters — and that makes you feel happy.”

January 6th, 2022

Categories: porn addiction pornography addiction

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