World’s first child hospitalized for video game addiction

Spain.- A research team made up of personnel from the Provincial Hospital, the Jaume I University and the Castellón General University Hospital published in the Journal of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, warn about the need to pay attention to the behaviors of the minors in reference to the use of video game, among which its use has spread, given “the growing precocity of its consumption”.

The generalization of the use of new technologies in daily life and leisure has brought to light potential damages of the inappropriate use of video game and the need for specialized treatment in those people with signs of behavioral addiction, as confirmed by the clinical case studied by these specialists.

Likewise, they recommend the transfer of this type of cases to the Day Hospital so that a more adequate evaluation can be carried out, since they have observed, in the case of hospitalized patients, a “difficult withdrawal from the screens and the need for an exhaustive follow-up prolonged after total withdrawal to overcome the risk of relapse ”.

According to the conclusions of the research, prevention strategies advise the need to supervise their use the minors of the screens “establishing clear and well-defined limits” and “encouraging the practice of other sources of satisfaction”.

Likewise, they are also committed to the creation of spaces for family interaction to enjoy group activities and the restriction of devices in the rooms of the minors.

To address the clinical case, the team formed by Silvia Márquez Arbués from the Provincial Hospital; Carla Ramos-Vidal, T. Álvarez-Núñez and Matías Real-López (INTEGRA – Research Group on the mental health of children and adolescents) of the Jaume I University and the Provincial and Matilde Espinosa-Mata Hospital of the UJI.

The General University Hospital of Castellón, all of them from the Program for Serious Mental Disorder of Children and Adolescents, have carried out a review of scientific publications on current behavioral addictions and, specifically, to the Fortnite video game in the IBECS, PubMed, PsyNet, Psycarticles and Google Scholar databases.

The symptoms

The symptoms that have led to decision to hospitalize for two months the patient, a minor teenager with serious addiction behavioral al Fortnite video game, included isolation at home, rejection of social interactions with refusal to go to health services, persistent personal inflexibility, little interest in their environment and very selective in their tastes and restrictive activities.

In addition, he presented alterations in the performance of the basic activities of daily life, in taking the treatment prescribed in the day hospital and in the rhythm of sleep.

It was a minor with a very high previous academic performance. The family had observed, from the beginning of the beginning of the course, greater absenteeism from school, breaking of rest schedules and disconnection from the rhythm of the course coinciding with a change in class.

After the evaluation, the professionals state that addiction to the videogames it acts as a regulator of the intense discomfort due to the loss of a family member and the anxiety derived from the increase in the level of demand in the educational context.

The treatment

Treatment has required an intensive multidisciplinary approach, from a cognitive-behavioral approach, working with both the patient as with his family and, at the same time, the implementation of intervention strategies such as cognitive restructuring, development of personal skills, contingency management and establishment of daily guidelines.

This has helped him “to be able to appreciate the repercussions that the use of the video game was having on his daily life”, comments the research team, and “it has allowed him to deal with the mourning for the death of his relative and how the use of the game it started as a haven for her emotional distress.

The results have shown a significant decrease in the use of screens (in a first phase after hospitalization with supervision and only for contact with peers to promote their socialization), as well as an improvement in the personal and social functioning of the patient.

At the Day Hospital, where he has worked on relapse prevention and progressive incorporation to his studies, he continued with training in emotional regulation and the acquisition of communication skills, in a group way.

Internet addiction was proposed as a “behavior disorder” in 1995 and in 2010 it was defined as “the loss of control that generates the appearance of adverse behaviors.”

The WHO also included video game disorder among mental illnesses in 2018. Experts do not consider that video games pose a problem in themselves, but that their proper use can have benefits in the educational and social fields and can even be therapeutic for some disorders.

However, professionals consider that there are risk factors that indicate abuse in the consumption of video game such as social withdrawal, low academic performance, existence of psychopathological problems (depression, perfectionist or obsessive personality) and socio-family problems (male sex, little parental control or external stressors).

In the case of Fortnite, two aspects of its addictive potential stand out: the imposition of deadlines to meet the challenges of each season and not lose progress, and the access to live broadcast platforms that show people playing while they comment on their strategies.

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