By Marie Woods, LMFT, CSAT
Primary Therapist, Gentle Path at The Meadows

Day in and day out, the world of technology is growing and changing. As amazing as the growth we experience from technology is, there is also a downside.

In the world of addiction treatment, we often see individuals who are more socially and emotionally detached from the real world due to an overemphasis on technology. One area of technology that particularly seems to impact relational skills is the world of internet and video gaming. Here are a few common ways that a gaming habit (perhaps even an addiction) could be negatively impacting your relationships.

False Sense of Safety

In the digital age, many talk about how brave people get behind a screen. This is most definitely true of the gaming world. People often feel a false sense of safety within the walls of their room and behind a controller, and can be prompted to do or say things they would not normally say. This false sense of safety can, and has, led to a lot of problems for some people.

For example, an adult male engages in online chat during game play with an underage girl; over time, this chat becomes sexualized. Often the adult has lost touch with the reality that they are engaging in significant boundary violating behavior because the game interface has provided an illusion. All in all, intense involvement in gaming lends itself to the double life aspect of addiction.

Emphasis on Fantasy vs. Reality

In the gaming arena, a person has the ability to design the character that he or she wants to be, and in the virtual world of the game, they can “be” that person. Their character can be vastly different from their actual persona. In some instances, this can feel very liberating. They can be drawn into the fantasy of the game, and thereby avoid facing life’s typical challenges.

At Gentle Path at The Meadows, we see this problem come up the most often with our gaming addicts. It can be far easier to engage in a relationship online where the ability to stop and start is completely in their control. In face to face relationships much more is required in terms of developed social skills.

Overall, gaming takes you to other countries, on exciting quests and adventures, and can be far more exciting than the everyday grind. Sure, we all need this escape from reality for short periods of time, but gaming addicts have a hard time drawing that line.

Promoting Aggression and Violence

One of the areas in which it can be most difficult for gaming addicts to draw that line is when it comes to aggression and violence. Today’s games have multiple levels of violent behaviors. In fact, gamers earn points, medals, and even extra lives for successful fights. The fact that this is so interwoven into the gaming industry makes it seem socially acceptable. For sex addicts, engaging in games with these themes often promotes a concept we call eroticized rage. This is where individuals express their anger in a sexualized way.

For example, a video game that involves hitting a prostitute with a car is certainly an example of eroticized rage. When someone engages in game play to the extent at which we are seeing in our culture, for hours and days on end, then that aggression is often carried outside the context of gaming, and can cause devastating consequences.

It would be unrealistic in today’s world to think that we could—or should even want to— eliminate the use of such technology as gaming. There are obviously many very positive reasons to engage with technology, the Internet and video games. What is important is the balance of screen time with face time.

Additionally, if you are experiencing negative impacts due to your gaming or internet habits, you may need to take a step back and evaluate that. If you struggle to set and maintain boundaries for yourself around your gaming, or if you have experienced negative consequences due to your gaming, then you may want to seek professional help. We’re here for you at Gentle Path at The Meadows. Call 855-333-6076 for more information.