Gaming addiction causes 'intimacy problems' for men

Can only handle their sexuality with online pornography

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A Seattle-based internet addiction specialist has revealed how computer and MMO addiction can cause serious 'intimacy disorders' in young men, who only handle their sexuality with online pornography.

Dr Hilarie Cash set up Heavensfield rehab unit in Seattle last September, the first in-patient internet addiction clinic of its kind outside of the Far East.

Broken sexual template

And while Dr Cash admits to Vice Magazine this month that "you can have people who are raised with computers who are smart and worldly," she is quick to add, "what I tend to see is people are physically at a deficit because they're chronically sleep-deprived, they've got carpal tunnel syndrome and they're socially uncomfortable in the real word, as the only place they're comfortable is in cyberspace."

Many of her patients have never dated, instead "they've handled their sexuality with pornography, which means that their sexual template is divided out between sex and intimacy. That's a recipe for an intimacy disorder – they don't know how to bring sexuality and social things together."

Cash tells two particularly harrowing stories about two extreme cases of young men who led lives of deception and become suicidally depressed because of their 'gaming habits'. "Both young men who weren't diagnosed with any problems that a clinician would have spotted before they became addicted," she explains.

Internet porn addiction

As far as internet-porn addicts go, Cash also treats a lot of them too, "but they really are bracketed in their own category," she notes, adding, "they are men who were exposed to porn at a young age, or were sexualised at a young age, maybe through abuse. They're older – 30, 40, 50."

"But almost universally, as I said before, the gamers I work with are accessing pornography, and my concern is that it's a real ticking time-bomb that's being created for ten or 20 years down the road."

For those parents that find gaming to be taking over their children's lives, Dr Cash recommends a device developed by Californian psychologist, Ken Woo that fits on the computer and controls the time the child can play.

Cash also claims that many games companies "hire professional psychologists these days to help them develop the best unpredictable reward payoff structures… [stimulating] the reward centres of the brain into releasing dopamine and opiates."

And while the therapist openly admits she is not a heavy net-user herself and has always preferred face-to-face meetings as her primary form of social interaction, she genuinely does have some useful advice for reigning in the ways in which technologies control your life.

"We need to figure out how to build the firewalls into our lives that can help us cope with its influence," she says. "It's...analogous to our dealings with cars. When we first had cars, we didn't have stop signs or safety belts. But through all the accidents that happened, they figured out what they needed, and now driving a car is pretty safe."

For more on Dr Cash's ITTA 12-step programme (Internet and Technology Addicts Anonymous) check out her website.

Via Vice Magazine