Parents missing the signs of disconnecting…

We often talked about the fact that parenting is a journey and a process. It can start out with a bang…the excitement of childbirth and then we proceed slowly crossing off the list each milestone and moving on to the next event. Our lives become consumed with providing a safe environment, arranging for good schooling, teaching our children ways to adapt through sports, hobbies and friendships. With each passing year our coping skills include “keeping an eye” on both good signs and negative signs as our children mature. But there are times when we inadvertently overlook the obvious signs of trouble.

Signs of trouble can include:

  • A pattern of missing school
  • Grades falling
  • Different friends
  • Isolating from other family members and friends
  • Dropping out of extracurricular activities like sports 
  • A change in appearance
  • Excessive spending 

These are all signs of disconnecting and each can serve to disguise other behavioral health issues like depression, anxiety, substance abuse or even video game addiction.

Treating video game addiction

In today’s society it is not uncommon for each family member to have access to personal computers in both our homes, work places and classrooms. Additionally, by a certain age, it seems a given that each child will be outfitted with some kind of smartphone. We stay in touch, but really have no idea how each family member is using their devices. It becomes a full time job to monitor programs, apps, social media platforms and it is not uncommon for parents to assume everything is stable.

As recently as 2013 the American Psychiatric Association (APA)decided that enough evidence exists to propose the potential disorder of video game addiction as a “condition requiring further study” in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders as Internet Gaming Disorder (DSM-5).

Four years ago the Cottonwood Tucson treatment team determined that a number of patients, both adolescents and young adults, were presenting with symptoms of video game addiction and it was then that we added video game addiction treatment to our program.

“We know that video game addiction treatment must begin with thorough psychiatric and bio-psycho-social assessments designed to identify possible medical, psychological, developmental and social co-factors that may have a bearing on the addicted person’s gaming. In Cottonwood’s safe and structured setting, gamers, isolated and entrenched in excessive hours of play can normalize social anxiety and regain the emotional support in group activities. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy can also be useful in helping the addicted gamer find more adaptive ways of managing moods, feelings and thoughts that may trigger impulses to game. On campus On-Line Gamers Anonymous, a recovery fellowship based on the principles of Alcoholics Anonymous provides our gaming patients with the experience, strength and hope necessary for their recovery from gaming addiction.” 

NBC’s KVOA interviews Cottonwood’s Clinical Director

Kathleen Parrish

This past week NBC KVOA’s Anchor Angelique Lizarde visited with Cottonwood Tucson’s Clinical Director Kathleen Parrish to learn more about video game addiction. Lizarde’s report was a 4 Your Health feature.

If you are having trouble viewing the video, you can see it here.

Some closing thoughts… 

Make some down time for yourself and reach out to your teenagers and your young adult children who may be coming home for the holidays. If you see signs that concern you which appear to involve video game addiction or any other behavioral health issue, then start a conversation.

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