Technology, as useful as it is, has side effects like a drug. One of them has now been proven and certified by the World Health Organization in 2018 and concerns a new mental disorder of minors mainly, the addiction to electronic games.

The above was pointed out by the child and adolescent psychiatrist Konstantinos Siomos, during a discussion on mental health, addictions and addiction to the internet, alcohol and narcotics, which was hosted at the Thessaloniki Medical Association stand at the 87th TIF.

Addiction to electronic games is the only addiction that “hits” ages even under 12 years old.

“The criteria for identifying addicts is the time they have for games and their life, which revolves only around them. They also want to escape from reality, e.g. they don’t want to face their obligations at school or the difficulties in communicating with family, friends etc. noted Mr. Siomos.

At the same time, he said that what applies to chemical addictions also applies to behavioral ones. “The substance that goes up and down is dopamine. We win a game goes up, we lose goes down and irritability is created” added Mr. Siomos.

How do societies react to child addiction?

Societies’ measures to prevent internet and gaming addiction include a proposal on 27/7/23 by the UN (together with UNESCO) to ban cell phones in the school environment. Also on 9/4/2023, in an Irish town of 18,000, parents and local authorities decided not to give mobile phones to children under 12.

As Mr. Siomos mentioned, if a “65-year-old “gets stuck” with a game on the internet can escape depression, the same is not true of children and young people in the phase of creation. If they “get stuck” the minors risk achieving much less in their lives with the abilities that nature has given them.

He added that man works with the reward circuit, he does something and is rewarded.

“The internet is set up in such a way that immediate reward is activated: I win something, a game or a like, I directly increase dopamine and this happens from a very early age, from the age of two. First I press buttons and pictures and later I learn to read, write etc. Therefore the child is trained in immediate reward and if you let him, more and more dopamine rises and then he needs more work to produce more dopamine, to achieve the corresponding effect, but this leads to satiety and instead of getting euphoria, he experiences a negative emotion, i.e. he returns to pain and to the beginning, where he was looking for joy. That’s why you see a lot of unhappy children, while they are playing and they should be happy” pointed out Mr. Siomos.

The president of ISTH, Nikos Nitsas, for his part, noted: “We must look the problem in the eye and tell the whole truth, especially to the children, in order to prevent the worst. The medical community has long recorded serious mental health incidents that have multiplied with the economic squeeze from 2008 to the present day, the pandemic and lockdowns, violence of all forms, accidents with mostly young people as victims as well as the effects of the growing natural disasters”.

Addictions are a phenomenon that evolves and changes faces

During the discussion, psychiatrist-psychotherapist, military doctor at 424 GSNE Panagiotis Panagiotidis characterized addictions as a phenomenon that evolves and “changes faces, changes times, changes populations, which are sometimes more or less vulnerable”.

“It is one phenomenon with a high risk of encountering and experiencing it, since long ago stable, and it is not easy to eliminate” said Mr. Panagiotidis noting, at the same time, that in some dependencies, such as e.g. with smoking, information about the consequences has “taken place” in contrast to other addictions.
Regarding alcohol addiction, Mr. Panagiotidis noted that since 2002 there has been no research – with special scientific methods – on the extent of the phenomenon. However, individual studies draw conclusions about the misuse of alcohol, for which there is no clear picture, due to the difficulty of diagnosis (most people consider that they do not have a problem and skip it).

Psychiatrist Maria Kissopoulou spoke of relatively easy identification of addiction from the compulsion felt by the user himself. “It’s not about how much he consumes, but how he goes about the process of finding the substance. Addiction has an irrationality and a compulsion, these are elements that we should distinguish and pay attention to.”

Psychiatrists talked about the signs which concern and concern all addictions – obsessions. “If you know the consequences and effects of using alcohol, drugs, etc. and you can’t stop it, then it’s a good compass to be cunning and look for,” said Mr. Panagiotidis.
Evidence shows that many social, cultural and economic factors drive or prevent addictions. In the case of alcohol, a decrease is recorded in developed countries in contrast to the rest. However, “the problem itself abolishes classes, beliefs, the economic condition of everyone and in a way the population proceeds to homogenize”. Usually those who are involved in the problem do not discuss it, “they keep it hidden, because they think that if it is discussed, then someone will stop them and they don’t want to lose it” added Mrs. Kissopoulou.

Finally, the doctors also talked about the treatment programs of many government agencies and self-help groups, pointing out – among other things – that “there are two paths: that of addiction and that of accepting the problem with as few consequences as possible, that is, reducing the damage. In the course of the effort, they can take one or the other path.”