Inside the Criminal Mind

Understanding the dark side of human conduct

Another 'Addiction'?

One more to add to a never-ending list

Five years ago, in the July 7, 2007 Washington Post, David Walsh wrote, "Video game addiction is a real problem." This has been asserted many times by people who are ready to call almost any excessive behavior an "addiction."  I have read articles about "coffee addiction" and "approval addiction," the latter referring to people supposedly addicted to trying to please others. Then there are "chocoholics" or people "addicted" to chocolate and "jogaholics" or people addicted to running, and the list goes on and on.

Yes, it is true that some people engage in activities to a point that they ignore responsibilities and cause themselves and others to suffer. Is a lack of self-control to be considered a disease? Video game "addiction" is linked by some "experts" to aggression and attention disorders. (It's hard to imagine that a person who sits in front of video games for hours in rapt concentration has an "attention disorder"). During the many years that I have evaluated and treated children with conduct disorders and adults with personality disorders, I have found that these individuals gravitate to whatever they find exciting. Television, films, and video games did not turn them into violent people. Rather people who already have a fascination with violence are drawn to more violence. Millions of children play violent video games, but these are just games. They do not enact the scenarios of the games in real life. For every youngster who endeavors to play out a video game scenario in real life how many millions more played the very same game and considered it entertainment and nothing more!

So I have two points. Let's stop turning excess into an addiction and disease. And let's not invert the chicken and the egg. Rather than violent video games "causing" children or adults to become violent, consider that people who already are drawn to violence seek out more violence.

Stanton Samenow, Ph.D.,is a clinical psychologist practicing in Alexandria, Virginia and author of Inside the Criminal Mind.

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