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Paradigm Featured on CBS Evening News for Gaming Addiction

Gaming Addiction | Paradigm Malibu

Paradigm founder Dr. Jeff Nalin recently appeared on a segment in the CBS Evening News, detailing how certain mental health conditions such as depression and anxiety can exacerbate the effects of a video game addiction, especially in adolescents. The segment was brought on by the World Health Organization’s recent decision to classify video game addiction as a legitimate mental health condition, characterized by an inability to stop gaming despite negative consequences, including job loss/declining grades, or health issues.


Also known as compulsive gaming or gaming disorder, the WHO’s decision is supported by several experts in psychiatric community, and maligned by others, including the American Psychiatric Association.


According to Dr. Nalin, gaming as a form of stress relief can go from being a harmless hobby to becoming a legitimately concerning behavioral issue in teens, especially when an underlying condition such as general anxiety or a depressive disorder calls for a need for reliable and constant distractions. As a coping mechanism, video gaming can become dangerous if taken to the extreme – aside from promoting a sedentary lifestyle and carrying a host of related physical risks, excessive gaming can cause:


  • Eyestrain
  • Relationship troubles
  • Poor academic performance
  • Lack of sleep
  • Mood swings and aggression
  • And more


Developing a coping mechanism with negative consequences – a maladaptive coping mechanism – is common for teens struggling with stress or trauma, including factors like stress at home, social or school pressures, and relationship problems. While many go through a period of hardship and eventually overcome their struggles and take on new responsibilities, others may develop troubling self-destructive habits.


However, video gaming by itself is not a sign of poor mental health, or excessive stress. Like other forms of modern media and entertainment, there remains a fine line between enjoying media freely and in a healthy way and being emotionally bound to it. Just as social media can affect a teen’s self-esteem and exacerbate social behavior problems, excessive video gaming can lead to a host of similar issues due to social withdrawal, remaining sedentary for long periods of time, and underlying emotional pain that is being suppressed or ignored.


Parents and professionals alike must be careful to monitor the time a teen spends playing games. While gaming today can promote online social activity, it is not a proper substitute for real life interaction. If a teen spends too much time playing video games and refuses to cut down, it is important to explain how gaming can turn from an acceptable hobby into an obstacle in life. Academic and household responsibilities should take a priority to gaming. If applying discipline does not work, then there may be more behind the problem than a love for games.


Whether or not video games are abused as a coping mechanism or are inherently risky for teens and promote compulsive behavior is debated. While the WHO is ready to include gaming disorder in its draft for the International Classification of Diseases, the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders recently took steps to cut down on its definition of addiction, restricting it to substance-related addiction, and encourages further study into the matter. Certain video game models – especially those involving the “capsule toy” mechanic of a randomized reward, in the form of “lootboxes” or other chance-related mechanics – may already be encompassed within the existing definition for a gambling disorder. Other video games are specifically designed with a reward-based gameplay loop, to keep players coming back to replay the game.


More important than what game a teen plays is how often they play it, and why. It is up to adults to see where and when the line is crossed and take steps to address the issue appropriately.

Paradigm Malibu is an adolescent mental health and drug treatment center dedicated to identifying, understanding and properly treating the core issues that impact teens and their families.

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