Monthly Archives: July 2014

Importance of Stopping Video Game Addiction Early

Video game addiction is a unique phenomenon of the new millennium in part because of how new computer and internet technology still is. It’s changed how we work and even how we play – whether an adult or child.

Video games as we know them were introduced in the 1970s and ‘80s and were initially in arcades. They were relatively simple for a while, and any other players were sitting right next to you – even if you eventually got Pong at home. Obviously much has advanced. Game concepts are much more involved. With the aid of the internet, a person can be playing alone in his room yet be interacting with multiple other people across the world taking part in the same game with a common goal. Yes, children still play outside, but it’s important to be aware of the effects of too much time with technology.

The Draw of Video Games, the Drawback of Addiction

World of Warcraft (WoW) is one of the most enduring and involved video games. Players create online personas – or character – then join with others across the globe to accomplish various quests in WoW’s virtual world. The more they play the more they can develop their characters, gain skills, and are rewarded. Accomplishing quests with other players makes one feel connected and important. Thus, it’s easy to see how quickly one can become absorbed into these virtual worlds trading real-life relationships and experiences for online ones.

In a 2012 NBC news story, a 28-year-old man described the hold WoW had on his life. He first got involved at age 11 and began logging in 16 hours a day by the time he reached his twenties. “Whenever I was on the computer I would feel great,” he described. “I was in this whole other world. I was excited. I was happy for that brief moment, but whenever I’m lying in bed at night, I would always … just think about how that day I hadn’t accomplished anything, about how I wasn’t what I wanted to be in life and that I was really, you know, miserable.”

It’s that type of scenario that differentiates over-use or a casual interest from addiction-like behavior. Personal relationships suffer; other hobbies, responsibilities, and commitments are neglected; players experience emotional highs when they play and lows when logged off. Also studies are showing that technology does have biological effects on us –from changing the ways our brains work to basic health implications. Children caught in this cycle may have more difficulty quitting than adults who face similar issues because they are still in the midst of developing mentally, emotionally, and physically when they begin playing.

Providing Hope for Those with Video Game & Internet Addiction

Getting therapy for a personal struggle that has you feeling down doesn’t necessarily meanthumbs_Excursions - Vista boy you’re depressed, but you realize you need outside help to get you back on track. The same is true of those who overuse technology: getting back on track means learning to balance real life with time online as well as addressing the emotional aspects of their attachment, which could include depression, anxiety, or low self-esteem.

Of course, not every child will develop a video game or internet addiction. But should it be a problem, wilderness therapy like Pacific Quest can be a great resource for adolescents and young adults who need to learn to live without the game and their online friends and need to build new habits. Wilderness therapy gets them away from the source of their issue and in an environment that supports change and growth. They develop real connections with people directly in their lives and reconnect with family and friends back home. The virtual world should never replace the real because one shouldn’t wake up one day to realize life has passed by.

Parent's Guide to Internet Addiction & Overuse

Internet Addiction: More than Overusing the Online World

Man at computer crop

Much of the power wielded by addiction comes from the seemingly innocuous nature of whatever you’re using or doing. Because of the ubiquity of cyberspace in our everyday lives, most of us expect to use the internet for a sizable portion of the day – both for work and for play. Oftentimes, this use is quite productive as well as necessary.

The above reality, however, can easily start you or someone you love on the road to internet addiction. If you have certain underlying issues, this propensity is highlighted and puts you at greater risk for compulsive internet use. If you find yourself using the internet to the detriment of other things in your life, then the time being spent is unproductive and you may need help.

Common Misuses of the Internet

It’s important not to think of internet addiction as mere “overuse.” For example, if you school work online, then there are times when you need to be on almost nonstop during a project period. The problem arises when internet use becomes compulsive, to the detriment of other daily activities. Consider a handful of common progenitors of internet misuse:

  1. Online Dating and Social Media Interaction: the presence of a plethora of social networking sites can contribute to gross overuse of cyberspace. If you find yourself compulsively checking Facebook status updates every few minutes throughout the day, and constantly making alterations to your social media profiles, then it may be time to step back and evaluate the time you’re spending with virtual friends versus the time you’re spending with real-life friends.
  2. Cybersex Compulsion: this is one of the biggest problems facing people online. Studies show that immersion in online fantasy role-playing games, chat rooms and other forms of adult entertainment have a deleterious effect on how you deal with a partner outside of the virtual, idealized world. Self-evaluations can be difficult here, and if you suspect that you or someone close to you is suffering from this addiction, there is help available – without commitment.
  3. Dating and social media aren’t the only forms of internet addiction; if you’re constantly perusing e-commerce sites like Amazon and eBay, then an evaluation might be in order as you notice your finances start to take unsustainable hits. Gambling, online slots – even stock-trading – can be signs you’re not in control.
  4. Gaming: Although this refers mostly to teenagers, a sizable portion of the adult population is adversely affected by an online compulsion for gaming. With so many fantastic games on the market and many of them requiring a full-investment of time, gaming is an addiction that can creep up surreptitiously as your allotted time goes from a few hours a day to half a day and even more. Playing any game online for 10 hours a day is simply unsustainable (even for an adolescent with fewer responsibilities than most adults) and is a sure sign that help is in order.

Getting the Help You Need with Wilderness Therapy

Pacific Quest wilderness therapy program understands that online addiction is a serious issue that may be a sign of an underlying condition – such as depression, for example. In teenagers and young adults, it can contribute to a lack of social growth and ability to deal with real-world problems. That’s why Pacific Quest places such emphasis on robust outdoor activities and interactive exercises to help you or a loved one regain your social health and sense of life-balance. To learn more about how wilderness therapy has successfully treated adolescents and young adults with internet addiction, please contact us.

Parent's Guide to Internet Addiction & Overuse

The Plight for Girls Addicted to Social Media

Adolescence marks the developmental stage of rapid and intense emotional and physical changes in girls. For these teen girls there is an even increased value placed on peer acceptance and approval and a heightened attention to external influences and social messages about cultural norms. Body image and related self-concept emerge as significant factors associated with health and well being during this developmental phase. Negative correlations have been statistically proven between media usage/addiction and social well being. Video, video games, email, social media, text/instant messages, and phone and video chat all constitute media. The 24/7 nature of social media and Internet addiction places huge pressures on girls, which in turn can lead to significant emotional issues and disorders.

Self-esteem Linked to Appearance

Social media and popular mainstream culture promotes specific images and standards of beauty and attractiveness that contradict good health practices and young girls’ ability to achieve a specific body type or image. It’s uniformly accepted that the U.S. society places great value on looks and exalts images unachievable by most. Unfortunately, the use of social media is not a healthy way for girls to seek acceptance or validation.

It seems that an entire generation of adolescent girls will fail to fulfill their professional potential because they are suffering from low self-esteem about their appearance. Why? Because one in four females aged between 11 and 17 are weighed down by pressure to conform to the ‘ideal notion’ of how they should look. “Whether it presents as a lack of confidence about their ability, their body or their worth, these deep-seated anxieties really hold girls back from achieving their potential.”

Many young girls believe physical appearance is a major part of their self-esteem, and their body image is a major contributor to sense of self. The experience of body dissatisfaction can lead to poor health habits and low self-esteem. These negative feelings may contribute to a higher prevalence of depressive symptoms and lower self-esteem among girls and affect health behaviors associated with poor eating habits, dieting, depression and anxiety, and eating disorders. “According to the National Women’s Resource Center, more than 7 million American women are affected by eating disorders each year, and 1,000 of those will die from complications of anorexia. Up to 80 percent of female college students have admitted to binge eating, a predecessor to bulimia.”

Differentiating Eating Disorders

There’s no single type of eating disorder as habits present themselves in various ways:

  • Anorexia nervosa is self-starvation. Girls with anorexia have an intense fear of body weight, and eat very little even though they are thin.

  • Bulimia nervosa is characterized by cycles of binge eating and purging. Girls with bulimia fear body fat although their weight may be normal.

  • Binge eating disorder means eating large amounts of food in a short period of time without being able to stop when full. Bingeing is often accompanied by feeling out of control and followed by guilt or depression.
  • Disordered eating refers to troublesome eating behaviors, such as restrictive dieting, binging, or purging, which occur less frequently or are less severe than those required to meet the full criteria for an eating disorder diagnosis.

Wilderness Therapy Can Help

The wilderness therapy program at Pacific Quest offers a unique whole-person, nature-based model for healing from the effects of the various addictions associated with today’s social media surge. Pacific Quest uses the healing power of nature and practices complete wellness, with qualified staff working together on every aspect. One reason Pacific Quest works is because it has an individualized, comprehensive and neuro-developmentally informed approach: Everyone is different. At Pacific Quest we can design strategies that reach our students and move them through a deep and lasting process of change.

Pacific Quest wilderness therapy girlsWe are passionate about our social mission and want to continue to help young girls and women develop a positive relationship with their bodies. Students have discovered the healing powers of horticulture therapy (HT), a formal practice involving the use of plants, the garden and horticultural activities to “promote well-being for its participant.” The benefits of horticulture therapy can take many forms, from physical and cognitive to spiritual and emotional. The garden uses horticultural principles to teach clients about food security, provide skills training, and nurture self-confidence and healthy leisure activities. The use of sustainable growth, horticultural therapy and gardening, focus on health and wellness, and peer culture, complement the individual treatment plan providing the foundation for developing personal awareness and cultivating tools for personal development teens and adolescents with eating disorders.

In many cases, cognitive-behavioral psychotherapy techniques are very effective in addressing Internet addiction issues being faced by our students. This approach helps the teenagers examine their anxiety, anticipate situations in which it is likely to occur, and understand its effects. This can also help them recognize the exaggerated nature of their fears and develop a corrective approach to the problem. They learn to replace negative and unproductive thought patterns with more realistic and useful ones.  Treatment often involves facing one’s fears as part of the pathway to recovery. Interpersonal therapy and problem-solving therapy are also effective.

Contact Pacific Quest to find out more about our dynamic medium for therapeutic growth and whole person wellness.

Isolation: Side of Effects of Technology & Internet Addiction

One positive aspects of modern technology is how easily it enables us to connect with other people – whether it’s texting or playing an Xbox game with someone in Tokyo. In some ways, we’ve never been more social.

However this incredible power does have a down side: isolation. It seems contradictory, but true socialization has taken a toll. Something about talking to another person face-to-face is less natural to us. We’d rather text something than talk, and it’s not uncommon to see a group of people together but hardly looking at each other because they’re each using their smartphones.

We think we’re socializing, but in many ways, it all may be separating us from the real interaction we crave leading to feelings of isolation. Video games illustrate this problem well.

Connected to the Computer, Disconnected from the Real World

Today’s video games, like World of Warcraft, Final Fantasy, and Call of Duty, testify to technology’s advancement. Many are incredibly vivid, complex virtual worlds that draw millions of people into playing. They’re highly interactive with vast environments populated by a variety of characters with specific backgrounds, abilities, and duties from which players choose. Players can interact with other players by teaming up their characters to go on quests or into battles together. They communicate via headsets, which is necessary in order to strategize and accomplish a common goal. There is much to explore and do in these games even if a player is on his own, and getting lost and caught up in all of it can be easy. However, hours or days are easily lost, too, especially as these games are designed for long-term play.Pacific Quest wilderness therapy

“Who cares?” you say. These gamers are still interacting. What’s really lost if they’re forming connection that happen to be through a game? The problem is that time online is time away from family and friends who aren’t a county, state, or continent away. It’s time not spent productively attending to professional and personal responsibilities. These things cannot be taken for granted and be expected to be there waiting when you’re ready to step away from the computer. But as the video game takes on importance, little else matters.

Real relationships are hard to come by (think about how many people you consider a confidant) because they take time to build, and virtual friendships can’t truly replace them. People can feel isolated when they’re not online because they may have let real relationships crumble or realize they’ve not accomplished all they’ve wanted due to their online activity.

Wilderness Therapy for Video Game & Internet Addiction

Excessive internet use or game play carries with it a variety of issues, and feeling isolated is only one of them. If someone has few friends and feels alone, online activities and “friends” can fill a void. In this case, he may be additionally dealing with depression, anxiety, or social issues. For others depression may settle in later when they’ve realized what gaming has cost them – relationships, money, a job.

It takes time to unravel the issues behind video game and internet addiction, but wilderness therapy has been an invaluable resource for adolescents and young adults struggling with them. Pacific Quest wilderness therapy program uses a holistic, clinical approach, which means that students get individual and group therapy to tackle their specific issues and also learn how to take care of themselves. Part of that includes learning to be part of their immediate community through activities like organic gardening without technology to distract them. They learn to cultivate deep, real connections unlike the superficial ones aided by technology.

Problems shouldn’t need to escalate to the point of addiction to make us realize that we’re missing out on the vivid world around us.

Parent's Guide to Internet Addiction & Overuse

Video Game Addiction: View From A Gamer’s Perspective

Picture this: your teenager sitting on the couch, mindlessly devouring junk food and soda, eyes glazed from hours of playing video games, day after day for the summer months. Summer is the highlight of the year for adolescents – no responsibilities and the taste of independence. All of the structure and scheduling that occurs during the school year is gone. With less structure and adult supervision, the summer is ripe with opportunities for teens to fall into bad habits, which can become larger issues like video game addiction.

A Teenage Gamer’s Perspective on Video Game Addiction

For 16-year-old Eli, gaming addiction, though he’s not comfortable with that term, is very real. Becoming aware of increasingly obsessive thoughts and behavior, understanding their consequences, and accepting that something has to change isn’t easy – even for an adult. Eli was forced to become aware of his issue after spending 14 hours straight playing his game of choice League of Legends.

Eli has been playing for almost a year along with several friends who got him into it. The initial difficulty required a lot of effort to get into the game, but it’s admittedly a growing priority in his life. Eli said, “[I’ve] wanted to play rather than go out to dinner. When I was swimming [on a competitive swim team], I was thinking about playing the game when I got home.”  When asked if he’s ever thought, “Hmmm, I should be doing [blank], but I’d rather play the game,” he responded with an unequivocal, “Yes.”

“It’s probably a bad use of time… it’s difficult to slow down”, confessed Eli.

With over 108 characters – or champions – to choose from, League of Legends uses teamwork, coordination and a lot of planning. Eli says he chooses to play certain champions because they are more powerful than others – thus more fun to play – and, “because it’s satisfying to win!”

Needing at least an hour to play the game and dealing with potential “conflicts,” as Eli calls them – i.e. if you perform badly other players bully or get angry, this game potentially hits the triggers of many a human emotion and character flaw. For example, if you are “AFK” (away from keyboard) thus leaving the game, there are penalties, and you may not be allowed to play in the future. Possible exclusion and angering fellow players creates incentive to continue playing.

As a consequence of his excessive gaming, his dad finally took away Eli’s phone after several previous empty threats. Though Eli got it back shortly thereafter, the message was received. Without going cold turkey, his dad has now limited the amount of time Eli is alone with too much downtime to play video games. Now Eli goes with his twin brother to their dad’s house some nights to read until they fall asleep. Not only is Eli’s video game addiction being curbed, but they get more quality family time.

Eli said, “It’s up to the parents [to monitor video game use]. They think we don’t know any better.” There is truth in that young people may not know better; teens becoming hooked on video games may not recognize their growing compulsion to play because the addiction grows gradually.

Choosing Pacific Quest Wilderness Therapy for Video Game Addiction

Each day is a chance to practice good parenting skills. Parents have the ability to pull their teens out of a toxic situation when they’re beginning to head down the wrong path. But should outside help be necessary, placing troubled adolescents or young adults with video game or internet addiction in an environment like Pacific Quest wilderness therapy can be incredibly beneficial. Students have a chance to think about their life’s direction while receiving therapeutic support as they learn and grow.

Because teenagers’ brains are still developing, adolescence is an ideal time for outdoor Wilderness therapy rewardstherapy. Destructive thought and behavior patterns can still be modified, mental health issues can be managed, and behavioral issues can be staved off by getting treatment as early as possible. When asked Eli what he thought about outdoor therapy programs like the one at Pacific Quest, he emphatically said, “It’s a good idea. It actually sounds much more fun than playing the game!” While wilderness therapy is about more than providing fun, Pacific Quest’s program is engaging in ways that video games can never be. With horticulture therapy, gardening activities require team work, planning, and responsibility in order to be successful. They also provide tangible rewards unlike the inconsequential points earned in video games. Instead of wasting away in front of the TV or computer, adolescents experience the outdoors and life, eat healthfully, and are active participants in life and the community.

Pacific Quest also helps families when necessary. For adolescents’ change to be sustainable, families also need an opportunity to express their feelings, ask questions, and receive help. Pacific Quest therapists can work with parents on how to develop parenting skills, communication skills, and ways to support their teen.

Technology is part of our daily lives, so it’s important to establish good tech habits early in order to live a balanced, healthy life.