At Elevations RTC Overuse Of Video Games Stops Here

Stopping Video Game Addiction At Elevations RTC

In the newest edition of the International Classification of Diseases, the World Health Organization recognized overuse of video games as a clinical diagnosis: Gaming Disorder. The overuse of technology by teens has been discussed as a major public health issue among teens for a while, but psychologists are only beginning to explore treatments for gaming disorders beyond just limiting screen time. Most research on the effects of video game overuse has been limited to its association with real-life aggression rather than depression, anxiety, social isolation, or addiction. At Elevations RTC, overuse of technology and video games is a struggle many of our students are working through. 

Video games have been shown to have some benefits for learning and socialization. They can provide hours of entertainment, but they also encourage problem-solving, motor control and dexterity, personal agency and cognitive flexibility, or the ability to take multiple perspectives.  However, when video games are overused, they can cause a teen to isolate themselves and develop an obsession with them. 

As technology has become more integrated into our lives, problems with abusing video games have become normalized. At Elevations RTC, we don’t cut technology out of our students’ lives when they come to us, but we teach them how to have a useful and beneficial relationship with it. 

elevations rtc abuse

Defining Video Game Overuse

The first step in understanding why teens overuse video games is differentiating between healthy use, excessive screen time, and video game addiction. Someone can spend a lot of time playing video games with friends and have minimal problems in other areas of their lives, while others may lose interest in other activities and spend most of their time either playing video games or thinking about playing video games. The key element of video game addiction is the role of mental health: do teens use video games to cope with negative emotions or do video games lead to negative emotions, especially when they are not playing?

To be diagnosed with Gaming Disorder, Elevations RTC outlines five main symptoms:

  • Impaired control over gaming (frequency, intensity, duration)
  • Increased priority given to gaming over other interests
  • Continuation or escalation of gaming despite negative consequences
  • Increased interpersonal conflict or social withdrawal
  • Distress when access to technology is limited

How Does Elevations RTC Help With Overuse Of Video Games?

For most students that overuse video games, they struggle with a lack of engagement in life and emotional challenges that have led to unhealthy coping mechanisms. With video games, teens can retreat into a make-believe world where acceptance is more readily available.  Residential treatment centers help teens by giving them a safe and nurturing environment to talk about their issues and learn new coping mechanisms. These students also share common experiences with others in their residential facility which can help students feel less alone. The structure of our program allows us to remove outside distractions and monitor technology use while working on emotional issues. Throughout their time at Elevations RTC, overuse of video games stops because of this.

technology addiction treatment

Our Clinical Model

Every person’s individual treatment plan depends on a variety of factors. Video game overuse is often a symptom of other issues. Some of the therapeutic approaches we use to help teens struggling with video game overuse include:

Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT) focuses on changing unhealthy behaviors through developing skills related to mindfulness, distress tolerance, emotion regulation, and interpersonal effectiveness.

 

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) focuses on changing belief systems that reinforce continued video game abuse, often related to self-esteem and goals.

Motivational Interviewing is used to increase student’s motivation and help them make a commitment to change unhealthy behaviors by identifying personal values and setting personal goals.

Narrative Therapy helps students separate their view of themselves from their problems by allowing students to get some distance from their issues to see how it is either helping or hurting them. Instead of viewing themselves as video game addicts, they begin to understand how abusing video games has affected them.

 

Our Philosophy

Our program validate that video games can be addictive.

We acknowledge that playing video games is a common hobby for teenage boys and many boys claim to spend an excessive amount of time playing games. At Elevations RTC, we don’t judge kids who overuse video games for developing problems with them, as we understand that brain activity spikes while playing and elevates their mood, which creates a reward loop. While we acknowledge 

We integrate technology into our program and allow students to earn additional privileges.

Like with drugs, going cold turkey may increase anxiety around video games and increase their cravings when they go home. There are ways to monitor the amount of time they spend playing games without taking it away altogether. In our classrooms, students use Chromebooks to do homework and are taught how to take advantage of technology’s benefits. Students are encouraged to watch appropriate movies and listen to appropriate music and have the opportunity to play video games once they have been there for a while.

Social use of technology is encouraged.

Elevations RTC is based on relationships. Many people claim that the opposite of video game overuse is not restricting video game use, but rather building connections. Elevations RTC students who used to spend time playing games alone learn to use it as a social activity rather than an obsession. 

Our program encourages mindful technology use.

Therapists talk to students about how they use technology, as well as why they use it. They encourage them to explore how technology has impacted their life and what makes it meaningful to them, as well as recognizing red flags for video game overuse. Students are encouraged to use technology, but to consider their online footprint and how they cultivate their online identity. This may include censoring personal information online or unfollowing unhealthy friends on social media

We role model how to help students unplug.

While technology is part of our program, we also encourage students to use their free time to explore other passions and develop stronger relationships with their peers. The adventure therapy program at Elevations RTC is based on introducing students to new healthy activities that build their confidence and encourage them to leave their comfort zone. From biking and kayaking to snowboarding and rock climbing, students learn how to have fun in other ways that don’t require technology.

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The Elevations Team