Monday, October 5, 2009

Addiction is not always bad

After a post on massively today, it got me started on the topic of addictions in relation to video games, and I was the first to call bullshit.

There seems to be a very negative slant towards addiction, as if it were always a bad thing, and this is false. Partly because it is conflated and associated with other neurological conditions that are harmful, and because of confirmation bias.

I know this, as for all intents and purposes, I am addicted to video games.
But here's the thing, it's not harmful.

I live a perfectly normal-ish life, even thou if I were to go without gaming for too long, I get antsy and begin to break down. (thou not in a partially harmful fashion)
I only play maybe 1 hr a day, if that. And I'm happy to sub in other forms of media entertainment instead at times. But I always come back to video games eventually.
Nothing quite gives me the same high.

The nature of addiction is to become neurologically and thus physically dependent on something, be it substance or an activity, in which you are to some degree compelled to repeat often in order to get the high your brain provides, or suffer withdraw symptoms.

However, this in and of itself is not necessarily harmful, but rather it's other additional behavior or neglection of bodily requirements/daily activities which cause the real harm.

It should also be noted, to not confuse this with obsessive compulsive behavior.
You can be addicted to something, while not spending a great deal of time on it, and you can spend vast amounts of time on something regularly, while not be physically dependent on it.
(ie, your not getting a high out of it)

In addition, addiction doesn't always come as a result of, or result in depression.
While these two conditions can correlate at times, they are two different neurological conditions.
You can be addicted without being depressed, and you can be depressed without being addicted
(both of which I have been through at one point or another, for different reasons)

As stated earlier, part of the problem is confirmation bias. Counting the hits, while ignoring the misses.

How often do you hear of people being addicted to something, and it not causing harm?
Never right?

That's because we only ever hear of these kinds of conditions after they have caused problems, not before. If we were to redefine how we framed this issue, and measure how the brain reacts to certain activities, relative to others, we would probably find that the vast number of people out there are addicted to one thing or another, without it causing any real problems or harm.

But because addiction has become a umbrella term, to cover a whole host of negative neurological and behavior conditions, it's so frequently slated as 'being a bad thing', in which we must shy away from, and can apply to damn near anything or anyone.

To which point it is thrown around so willy-nilly, as to not longer have any real meaning.

But used in the scientific sense,
I for one am addicted, but I am not obsessive, and I am certainly not depressed.
I just really like video games.
It's a lifestyle choice for me.

And if there is no harm, then so fucking, bastardly what?



  1. Your reasoning is flawed: being able to handle an addiction doesn't make it "NOT BAD".

    It would be "NOT BAD" if, alongside with a side-effect (withdraw simpthoms), it would provide an unique benefit (not obtainable anywhere else).

    But that is NOT TRUE! You can "get high" without being addicted to something, thus without the fear of "whithdrawal sympthoms".

    So why would someone choose to suffer from side-effects from having fun over NOT having them?

  2. Your making a lot of presumptions yourself, so your not in the best position to tell someone else they are using flawed reasoning.

    What makes something bad or not is the harm caused by such behavior, offset by any positive benefits it might have.

    While I will concede that you can get a high off of something without being addicted, this is true.

    However, the more you do it, the harder it will become to stop, as you get used to it.
    Ie, try pulling yourself away from the computer if you spend nearly every day on it, it's difficult.
    (this doesn't mean you go thru some sort of detox experience)

    And second, it's not a choice.
    I didn't choose to become addicted to gaming.
    It's out of habit and repetition, that I've become addicted.

    So all it comes down too, is weighing the benefits of being a gamer (stress release, not spending time on other more wasteful activities), vs the cost of continuing to do it, and any withdrawal symptoms.
    (which in either case, is minimal at best, as I can ween myself off of it if I wanted to)
    (also, you only risk having these symptoms if I stop, which I'm not going to anyways.
    There is no fear here)

    So at least in my case, there is NO tangible harm caused by my addiction, and in fact I would wager there is more beneficial from it.

    Again, where's the harm?
    Demonstrate actual harm, and then I'll concede.