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Video Games Are Tearing Marriages Apart

By Kate Merrill, WBZ-TV
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WBZ-TV's Kate Merrill Kate Merrill
Kate Merrill is an Emmy award winning journalist for WBZ-TV News. She...
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BOSTON (CBS) — If you ask most parents, they will admit it can be hard to limit the amount of time their kids play video games. Now some adults are having trouble pulling themselves away from these games, and that addiction can tear families apart and ruin marriages.

Donald Hunt had a tough time curtailing his playing time as he was drawn to intense games around the clock. “It’s just total immersion into the game, as your reality, instead of the reality,” he explained.

Don played so much he lost his job and ruined his marriage.

His wife Jane felt horrible. “It was really lonely,” she said. “And it felt like I was a widow; that I had lost my other half.”

Although the cliché is that teen aged boys are the most likely candidates to get addicted to video games, that is not the case these days according to Ryan Van Cleave, author of “Unplugged”. He says more adults are now hooked.

WBZ-TV’s Kate Merrill reports.

“They’re killing careers,” said Van Cleave. “They’re killing families. They’re killing relationships. They’re killing health, and literally now we’re having people killing others and themselves over video games.”

Across the country there have been cases of children being neglected while their parents played video games. In one case, a one year old baby drowned in the bathtub while his mother got caught up in a game.

Psychology professor Douglas Genitle has studied how video games affect the brain. He considers video game addiction and impulse control disorder.

“You know you should go to bed, but you just want to get one more level,” explained Dr. Gentile. “And you’re not able to actually control those impulses to play. And what those people need to do is get that back into balance. “

One problem is video game addiction isn’t recognized as a medical diagnosis which can make it more difficult to find help.

Gentile said, “You’re probably going to need to find a therapist who is used to dealing with people with impulse control disorders or with substance abuse disorders because they have a lot of ways to help people who start getting things out of balance in their lives.”

Spouses also need to tread on this issue carefully so they don’t make matters worse.

Van Cleave advises, “The number one thing to do is not confront them while they’re playing the game. A calm, clear conversation with them at a moment when they’re not gaming is a great way to start things moving in the right direction.”

Don finally broke his habit, and life with Janet has returned to normal. “Life is good now,” said Janet. “I have my husband back.’

It doesn’t take an intense game like “Call of Duty” to become addicted. Therapists say adults can become addicted to those innocuous games on Facebook just as easily.

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