Gaming Addiction Leads to Living a Lie

By Raj, age 21, England, United Kingdom

Hi! I've got a friend named Charlie and she LOVES a game that she plays to the point of slight obsession. But that's not the problem.

She plays this game in multi-player mode and has recently met several people on there that are famous for making videos about this game on YouTube.

Charlie is spinning all these stories about the amazing adventures she has online with these people. They're all she ever talks about. It's "Oh, I had a great time last night with those people off of YouTube!" I don't really want to mention their names, but she never says, "Do you remember that time when we (her REAL LIFE friends) did ...?"

Isabelle (one of our friends) and I are also a bit skeptical of these stories. Charlie says she's in these people's videos, but we've looked and she isn't. She also said she was playing with them online the other day when I know for a fact one of them was on holiday. (There was an announcement on their fan page.)

Anytime we mention that Charlie might be getting carried away with it, or a bit obsessed, she has a hissy fit and falls out with us, refusing to talk for days!

All we want is for her to remember there is life outside the computer. But we don't know how to get it through to her. Help!

Lottie, 14

Hi Lottie,

I can tell you're pretty concerned about your friend, and I know how frustrating it is when you try to reach out and help somebody and they throw it back in your face, but I'm glad you're not giving up on Charlie. Friends who tell lies repeatedly over silly things can get seriously annoying, like Charlie's stories about her YouTube friends, and you've probably been wondering why on earth she would make this stuff up. The reason might be because the game is more important and more enjoyable to her than her real life. The gaming may have started as some innocent escapism, but these things can get out of control and start to feel addictive before you know what's hit you. Charlie probably tells you all these stories that she thinks are impressive and will justify her behaviour, make her look superior, and make you jealous, when in reality she's merely isolating herself because she's not making any real attempt to be a friend, and her lies are so transparent. Being glued to a computer causes your real life social skills to become a little rusty, so when you confront Charlie about her gaming habits, she's going to feel insulted and defensive, and unfortunately isolate herself even more.

Luckily, you're ready and willing to help her :) You're right to want to get her away from her computer, which is obviously tough because she'll still need to use it for email, homework, etc., but you need to put her off the game and get her excited about the real world again. She must miss out on a lot of fun if she spends so much time gaming, so she would probably rather her play on her computer than hang out with you because she feels left out. This might be her own fault but she won't see it that way. Continue to invite her to socialize with you, no matter how many times she turns you down. Sleepovers would be good because then you can keep her with you and away from a computer for longer. Better still, see if you get into any outdoor activities; a change of environment will be the most refreshing thing for her. Camping is always good when you need a distraction, even if it's only in your back yard.

Obviously, Lottie, you can only do so much - you're not Charlie's babysitter, so if you really can't get through to her, and you think she's seriously addicted and she neglects everything else in her life and her personality changes for the worse, you'll need to tell an adult at home or at school.

Good luck,

* * * * *

Stuck in a Rut

A few months ago in April my mom left my dad. She said she just couldn't live with him anymore, so she lives somewhere else, but I still see her a couple times a week when she drives me to soccer. Oh, and the news for this happened on my 16th birthday - kinda crappy, but whatever.

The problem is I kind of gave up on everything. I had 5 projects that were over a month late, and wasn't attending my math class and doing horribly, which usually is really good - I skipped a year. My room is an absolute mess. I eat all the time. I stay up super late then sleep in. I'm not trying my best at soccer, and worse, I feel like my personality has changed. I'm not sure in a good way or bad.

My best friend whom I can trust with anything recently confronted me about the way I've been acting. Also, I've been drinking every weekend and had sex with my boyfriend for the first time on one of those nights. It seems like I'm not in control of anything, and it's really hard getting on track. I want to go back to who I was and not act this way.

Katie, 16

Hi Katie,

A change in family circumstances, like the one you've experienced, can be a hugely difficult adjustment. Feeling out of control is horrible and frustrating, but I hope you haven't been too hard on yourself. You're very smart to want to change the way you've been acting, and it sounds like you have a great best friend to support you. Since these habits started when your parents separated, it's really important that you talk to them about it. Your physical and emotional well-being should always be a number one priority, so make them listen and understand what you're going through, and tell them what they can do to help you process the changes and cope with them. If you don't feel ready to talk to your parents just yet then talk to friends/other family members in the meantime. I know you may not feel like it, but wherever possible, it's most beneficial to have a strong relationship with each of your parents. It would be great for you if you could arrange some fun things to do with your mom so you're getting more quality time together. And the same with your dad. Families can be hard work, but a parent's love is unconditional, so you want to try and maintain that relationship. Focus on doing positive things with them that make you happy. Hopefully it'll prove enough of a distraction from all the crap to ease the transition.

I know that when you're in a hole it seems impossible to get out of it, but you basically have to push yourself extra hard to break the cycle. It can help to think of all the things you have to look forward to in your life; set goals and targets for yourself. You don't have go through it all alone; tell whomever you can trust that you're making some lifestyle changes, and they can encourage you and help keep you in check, but most importantly you do need to motivate yourself. Your school work can be caught up on with hard work and dedication. You know all the things that you shouldn't be doing, so force yourself to substitute much healthier and productive activities.

Mold yourself a wonderful personality and stay true to it. Never neglect yourself; take care of your body, eat and rest properly, and always stay true to yourself and be safe when with your boyfriend. Find a hobby that you love; if it's soccer, then great. Exercise is highly recommended because it's so useful for releasing pent up energy. Establish a proper routine for sleeping, meals, school, homework etc., and stick to it. Start by cleaning your room and keeping it clean, because a tidy and organized environment will help you to organize everything else that's going on inside your head. To regain control you need to be very proactive, but of course you can do it. Quit all destructive behaviors and give yourself time to adapt. :)

Good luck, Katie, and please don't hesitate to get in touch again should you feel the need.


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March 15, 2012

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