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Getting help for video game addiction

August 18, 2011 12:00:00 AM PDT
Video games used to be known as child's play. But now more and more adults are getting hooked. Psychologists say they're sacrificing their jobs, families and friends and spending all their time online.

Janet Hunt loves spending time with her husband Don. But a year ago he had no time for her, only for his video game.

"Sometimes he could play up to 20 hours straight," said Janet. "He could be on there at 6 a.m. and by the time that 3 a.m. or 4 a.m. that night rolled around, he could still be sitting there playing."

"It's just total immersion into the game, as your reality, instead of the real reality," said Donald.

It got so bad that Don lost his job and Janet filed for divorce.

"It was lonely. It was real lonely," said Janet. "And it felt like I was like a widow. That I had lost my other half and just, I felt alone all the time."

Ryan Van Cleave, author of the video game addiction book "Unplugged," says more and more adults are becoming consumed by the games, and the consequences can be grave.

"They're killing careers, they're killing families, they're killing relationships, they're killing health, and literally now we're having people killing others and themselves over video games," said Van Cleave.

Douglas Gentile is an associate professor of psychology at Iowa State University. He considers video game addiction an impulse control disorder.

"You know you should go to bed now but you just want to get one more level," said Gentile. "And that you're not able to actually control those impulses to play. And what people need to do is get that back into balance."

Since video game addiction isn't a recognized medical diagnosis, help can be difficult to find.

Gentile recommends starting with an expert on substance abuse disorders because treatment can be similar.

And if it's your spouse that has the problem?

"The number one thing to do is not confront them while they're playing the game," said Van Cleave. "A calm, clear conversation with them at a moment when they're not gaming is a great way to start things moving in the right direction."

Janet's husband was finally able to break his video game addiction and they got back together. Today, they are working to get back on track both emotionally and financially.

"Life now is good. I have my husband back. I have my best friend back," said Janet.

We're not just talking "World of Warcraft" or "Halo." Experts say even so-called casual games like the ones you might find on Facebook can be just as addictive.


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