Category Archives: Video Games Stress Frontal Lobe

The connection between drug use, video games, deadly weapons and school shootings.

In the wake of school shootings by teenagers, everyone is running back and forth trying to find a possible cause to these monstrosities. Why would a ‘normal’ kid suddenly go berserk and try to end the lives of their teachers and peers?

 

While each case is different due to the various variables that could have triggered each shooter, there are things that most of them have in common and which are worth investigating. Is there a link between video games, drug abuse, and the availability of violent weapons such as guns and the shootings? This article will discuss that connection.

 

The Connection between Video Games and School Shootings

Most high school going kids are more than likely active gamers. And while video games have been shown to significantly improve visual-spatial skills, there can be too much of a good thing. Video games, especially modern ones that are mission-centered, are designed to hook the individual for hours on end. Additionally, there are so many levels or layers to a game that it might take weeks or months for one to complete just one game. And with the thousands of games available, the individual is more than likely going to have a lot on their hands. This constant playing is likely to result in a condition known as video gaming addiction.

 

In fact, the World Health Organization recently added ‘gaming disorder’ to its list of mental health conditions.

 

Gaming disorder can be used synonymously with video gaming addiction and refers to the condition where an individual loses control over their gaming habits, and they start prioritizing gaming over other interests.

 

But what does this have to do with shootings?

 

While some people play video games for purely recreational purposes, others use gaming as a coping mechanism for their stress and anxiety. As such, understanding the motivation behind the gaming is key to identifying the cause of their disorder. A study found that using gaming as a coping mechanism for stress resulted in even higher levels of stress.

 

To understand how video games are a contributory factor towards school shootings, let us look at the link between mental illnesses and school shootings.

 

The Connection between Mental Illness and School Shootings

According to the book, Gun Violence and Mental Illness, individuals who commit mass shootings are known to plan well in advance. They usually bottle up extreme feelings of anger and revenge. And because they are typically socially isolated, they tend to act alone most of the time.

 

The book further notes that there are common traits among the shooters in addition to historical factors that contribute to the massacres. In fact, a case study done on five murderers revealed that, during childhood, they began seeing people as uncaring and rejecting.

 

All subjects had been isolated or bullied during their childhoods, and they inevitably became loners who despaired over their social alienation. These led to paranoid tendencies such as grudge holding and suspiciousness.

 

Consequently, they spent a significant amount of time harboring feelings of resentment as they ruminated on past humiliations. This constant rumination eventually evolved into fantasies of violent revenge.

 

All the above are indicators of an underlying mental illness caused by the constant stress and anxiety felt by these individuals.

 

Coping Using Video Games

As a result of their social alienation, school shooters use video games as a means of coping. And they will spend hours on end playing these games. The American Psychological Association conducted a review of research and found out that individuals who play violent video games were more likely to engage in aggressive behavior.

 

If video games can foster violent behavior in mentally stable individuals, think about the impact they have on kids harboring violent revenge fantasies.

 

In addition to increasing an individual’s levels of aggression, violent video games have been found to desensitize gamers to violence. As a result, they have a lower value for human life. Consequently, the gamer’s lost empathy makes them more likely to take human life without the feelings of remorse that would affect a ‘normal’ person.

 

Drug Abuse and School Shootings

One of the more prominent mental health watchdogs, CCHR (the Citizens Commission on Human Rights), has been investigating school shootings since the Columbine High School incidence in 1999. The body’s investigation into school shootings reveals that at least 36 school shootings have been orchestrated by individuals using or withdrawing from the use of psychotropic drugs resulting in 80 fatalities and over 170 wounded.

 

Psychiatric drugs are typically prescribed to individuals with mental health problems to help them cope with stress or anxiety. Individuals might eventually end up developing a dependency on these drugs. Consequently, they start abusing the drugs, and drug addiction follows.

 

When the drug addiction becomes a real problem, withdrawing is usually the next logical step. However, a 2012 study published in Psychotherapy and Psychosomatics revealed that withdrawing from psychotropic drugs can lead to violent and aggressive behavior.

 

Video Games, Mental Illness, and Drug Abuse

Most school shooters usually have an underlying form of mental illness. Even though the specifics may vary among shooters, most of them, however; have been found to have had a troubling childhood. Often bullied or isolated, these individuals become loners who use video games as a coping mechanism. All while fantasizing on violent revenge.

Video games, on the other hand, have been found to increase the levels of aggression in the gamer while desensitizing them to violence. This results in reduced empathy which makes the person more likely to commit a shooting.

 

Psychotropic drugs are used to help individuals with mental illnesses to better cope with their stress and anxiety. And due to the high levels of stress these individuals have to cope with daily, they are more than likely going to get addicted to the drugs, whose withdrawal increases their aggression further.

 

It does not help that guns can be easily found in American households. In fact, an analysis of 145 school shootings committed since 1999 revealed that 80 percent of the guns were taken from the shooter’s home or that of their relatives. And if those weapons were not so easily accessible, over two-thirds of the shootings would never have happened.

 

The bottom line is, when you combine mental illness, drug abuse, video games, and weapons, the likelihood of a school shooting is greatly increased. To prevent this from happening, it is important that you get to know your child better. Look out for signs of stress, anxiety, and depression. Next, take them to a recovery center that takes a holistic approach to mental health treatment rather than just prescribing drugs to the child. Doing this might just prevent yet another shooting.

Your Kid’s Brain on Video Games

 

Over the last ten years, video games have steadily etched their way into one of the most preferred form of entertainment throughout the world as a result of the steady decrease in TV viewing habits. This is because video games are no longer limited to arcades or homes. Portable systems and mobile devices have made gaming a possibility no matter where you are. Nonetheless, consoles and computers remain widely popular gaming systems.

 

This ubiquitous nature of video games is the main cause of video gaming addiction in teens and children as they do not know when they should stop playing. Not surprisingly, parents are becoming increasingly concerned about this screen addiction. It is a major cause of worry when you notice that video games are the top priority in your child’s life. The child may start neglecting their hobbies, friends, sports, and schoolwork. Moreover, they may lash out at anyone who tries to limit their gaming.

 

The American Academy of Pediatrics has it that, on average, kids today spend about seven hours each day on some type of electronic device. Additionally, about 97% of kids aged between 12 and 17 play video games regularly.

 

Understandably, as a parent, you may start wondering whether your child has an actual addiction to video games. And if so, is their brain in danger? This article will take a closer look at video game addiction and how it can affect your child’s brain and life?

What is Video Game Addiction?

 

Gaming addiction refers to the compulsive and uncontrolled use of digital games, in a manner that results in problems in other areas of the gamer’s life. It is, therefore, considered a form of tech addiction or screen addiction. Video gaming addiction is an issue of increasing concern among parents as digital games become more popular and are increasingly being targeted at children. These include console games, computer games, cell phone games, and arcade games. Today, they are even embedded in social networking sites.

 

How Do Video Games Affect the Brain?

 

Most games are designed to trigger the sensory responses that humans use when they are exposed to danger. Whenever the brain feels threatened or senses danger, it kicks in our primitive survival mechanisms that work to protect us from harm. This is an instantaneous response that has been hardwired into our genes to ensure our survival. Nonetheless, a threat does not have to be real for this response to be triggered. It only takes the brain to perceive danger for the body to react.

 

Upon triggering this instinct, the nervous system and hormones work to jolt our state of arousal to enable faster reactions. As such, the body goes into a state of hyperarousal – commonly referred to as the fight-or-flight response. The issue, however, is that the feelings associated with this state are typically difficult to shake off even after the threat (real or perceived) is long gone.

 

The hyperarousal state is also referred to as ‘running from the tiger,’ since our ancestors literally had to protect themselves from predators by either fighting or running. Even though most humans today do not live in fear of predation, we still need this rapid stress response when we are in emergency situations or even the mild day-to-day stress reactions that help us to get things done. However, repeatedly going through this response when survival is not at stake does more harm than good in the long run.

 

As mentioned earlier, after a fight or flight stress response, the brain usually has a hard time regulating itself to a calm state. As such, when this response occurs regularly or too intensely, it can lead to a state of chronic stress. Stress is usually as a result of the mismatch between the survival response reactions and energy expenditure, as is typical with video games. When your body goes into that response, it builds up energy to help you through that moment. As such, this energy needs to be physically discharged so that the nervous system can re-regulate. When that energy is not discharged, the nervous system does not re-regulate effectively thus leading to chronic stress.

 

Once the body goes into a state of chronic stress, blood flow is directed away from the frontal lobe (the higher thinking part of the brain) and towards the deeper, primitive areas which are designed to help you survive adverse situations. The result is a functioning impairment.

 

Chronic stress sets in faster in children than in adults. This is because their nervous systems are still developing thus making those sequence of events to occur a lot faster in them. And when a child becomes chronically stressed, they soon begin to struggle.

 

And because the primary effect of chronic stress is felt on the frontal lobe, the child becomes mentally depleted. This leads to issues such as having trouble paying attention, suppressed impulses,an inability to manage emotions, difficulty following directions, frustration, and a hard time executing tasks. Moreover, these effects are compounded by the amount of screen-time that is spent playing these games. The body clock of a heavy gamer is usually distorted thus hindering deep sleep. Missing quality sleep regularly will result in mood, cognitive, and behavior issues.

How Gaming Addiction Compares to Other Addictions

 

An addiction to video games is similar to other addictions in terms of the amount of time and effort channeled into the activity, the emotional attachment involved, and the patterns of social difficulties displayed by the gamers.

 

As is the case with other addictions, video game addicts are preoccupied with gaming, thus disrupting their relationships, hobbies, and school. The younger a child begins to play video games, the more the likelihood that they will develop a dependence on video games.

 

Other Harmful Effects Associated With Video Games

 

In addition to addiction, the following are other harmful effects that have been linked to heavy video game use:

 

 An increased vulnerability to light-induced seizures, enhanced metabolic rate, and musculoskeletal disorders of the upper extremities.

 Reduced cooperative behavior during group settings or social interactions.

 An increase in aggressive thoughts and behaviors especially in children under the age of ten.

Research done on video game addicts reveals that, in general, they exhibit poorer mental health characterized by a decrease in cognitive abilities such as poor impulse control and ADHD symptoms. Moreover, individuals who are addicted to video games also tend to experience emotional difficulties, as well as being highly susceptible to anxiety and depression. They also report as feeling socially isolated, in addition to being more likely to have issues with internet pornography.

 

Parents need to learn the science behind how the time spent playing video games can overstimulate the nervous system, and how those effects manifest themselves, especially in their own child. By learning this information, parents will be better equipped to make strategic decisions regarding the role of video games in their children’s lives. It puts them in the driver’s seat rather than constantly being swayed by misleading headlines and cultural headlines.

Unfortunately, gaming addiction is a relatively new psychological problem, and as such, it can be difficult for parents to find experts who specialize in video game addiction. Nonetheless, help is available for parents looking to help their kids to overcome their tech addiction. Omega Recovery is a contemporary addiction treatment center run by experts with a breadth of knowledge across all areas of addiction. Are you looking to curb your child’s gaming addiction? Contact us today, and we will be glad to help.