Video Game Addiction is real but is it necessarily bad? I mean games are fun and a way to relieve stress. For some individuals however, the use of this technology has become problematic. These “problem” users have been reported to neglect work, education, social relationships and personal well-being, playing games up to 80 to 100 hours per week (King, 2010). In these individuals the high level of involvement is comparable to pathological gambling (King, 2010).
Because Cognitive Behavioral Therapy has had moderate to high levels of success for problem gamblers, researchers were interested in adopting a similar framework of therapy for compulsive video game players (King, 2010).
Cognitive Behaviour Therapy
According to the Mayo Clinic, Cognitive behavioural therapy(CBT) is a form of mental health counseling in which a counselor works with the patient to help the patient become more aware of negative thinking and behaviours. These sessions allow patients to view their challenge clearly and develop an appropriate response.
In addiction, the National Institute on Drug Abuse describes CBT as a method to prevent relapse. It has been used in treating alcohol and cocaine addiction. A central component of CBT is anticipating problems and developing effective coping strategies in patients so that they can deal with these problems. Proponents of CBT point to research that indicates skills learnt through cognitive-behavioral therapy extend beyond the treatment sessions.
One peculiarity about video games that may make them a more challenging target for CBT is that unlike gambling games, video games do not depend on chance but rather involve skill(King, 2010). Video game users may see this as incentive to practice these skills to master a game and thus hold rational thoughts on video game use (King 2010).
Gaming addiction among the youth in South Korea has become so prevalent that the government has acted to ban online video game play after 10:30pm for youth under 16 in their 2011 Cinderella Law (Lee, 2011).
The government also sponsors many of the gaming rehabilitation centers in South Korea. Some have turned to controversial means of treating this addiction. In Gangam Eulji Hospital in Seoul, Neurophysiatrist Dr. Lee Jae Won uses techniques such as brain scans, electromagnetic stimulation, and virtual reality therapy. Transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) is a noninvasive way to stimulate a select region of the brain. Repetitive stimulations can make a brain region temporarily overloaded with activity and non functional. In the video below, Vice interviews Dr. Lee Jae Won who describes some of his approaches. Skip to the 6:20 mark.
Regarding the specifics of TMS treatment for addiction, in Bellamoli et Al’s 2014 review she describes how TMS treatment is probably effective in the treatment of some addiction such as achohol (Bellamoli, 2014). The mechanism for such beneficial treatment is that repetitive stimulation of the prefrontal cortex can modulate the mesolimbic and mesostraiatial dopaminergic systems that are abnormal in individuals showing addiction behaviour (Bellamoli, 2014).
Bellamoli, E., Manganotti, P., Schwartz, P. R., Rimondo, C., Gomma, M., & Serpelloni, G. (2014). rTMS in the Treatment of Drug Addiction: An Update about Human Studies. Behavioural Neurology, 11.
King, L. D., Delfabbro, I. P., & Griffiths, D. M. (2010). Cognitive Behavioral Therapy For Problematic Video Game Players: Conceptual Considerations and Practice Issues. Journal of CyberTherapy and Rehabilitation, 3(3).
Lee, J. (2011). South Korea pulls plug on late-night adolescent online gamers. CNN.