CHICAGO (CBS) — Are you a fan of video games? Can’t get enough of Farmville or angry birds?
Millions of adults are fascinated with the games, but hundreds of them have crossed the line between fun and addiction.
Adam Nicolai is married with two young kids to care for. After he lost his job, he turned to video games to escape. He says he became addicted, at the expense of his children.
“They governed themselves, so to speak. But they watched a lot of TV, played (with) themselves quite a bit and I was playing,” he says.
One day, while engrossed in “World of Warcraft,” one of his boys needed help going to the bathroom.
“I was in the middle of a raid and I told him to wait and so I had him waiting on the toilet for 15 minutes and he was crying,” Nicolai says. “At that point I was thinking, ‘Why did you have to choose now to go the bathroom?’”
For other extreme gamers, the results can be far more tragic. Police removed six children from the home of a mother in Pennsylvania after finding them living in filth and animal waste. The kids’ stepfather says the mom was too addicted to games to care for her children.
In Denver, a mother admitted she was playing an online Facebook game when her 1-year-old son drowned in the bathtub.
Mental health experts say it’s very hard to just stop playing the game, even if you’re putting your loved ones at risk.
“It’s not just people can decide about this, but that there’s a physiological thing that’s going on,” Mike Topel of Rush University Medical Center says. “There’s a biological basis for this addiction.”
Before Nicolai quit in January, he logged more than 5,000 hours of game time in 18 months, something he’s not proud of — and definitely regrets.
Therapy and medication have helped him regain control of his life.
“I don’t feel any pull to video games in general,” he said. “I take the kids to the park all the time. I’m not thinking about getting home to play a game.”
Gaming is also a magnet for people with social phobias because it allows the person to avoid connecting to the world or interacting socially.