Entries in Addictions (2)


How Farmville, Angry Birds and More Are Using Psychologists to Engage You

Facebook/Zynga(NEW YORK) -- If you've ever played Angry Birds, or Words with Friends, or Farmville, you might have some sympathy for DiAnn Edwards of Red Lion, Pa.

She plays Farmville on her laptop up to eight hours a day. The 51-year-old spends up to $200 a month on her Farmville habit.

She can't help it. She's hooked.

"It just gets addicting," she said. "I'm 51 and what am I doing sitting here playing a Farmville game? I don't get it, but it actually drives me crazy."

Dr. Timothy Fong, who runs a UCLA clinic for behavioral addiction, says he sees patients just like her every day.

"The stereotype of the 'video game addict' is a teenage kid in his underwear. That's not what's happening out there," Fong said. "The average age of our patients is about 40. We've seen housewives, doctors, lawyers."

Fong is convinced that video games can be just as addictive as drugs or alcohol. "It's the same exact clinical symptoms: preoccupation, loss of control, inability to stop.

"They keep playing the game despite harmful consequences so, in my mind, absolutely I believe it is the same disease as alcohol or drug addiction."

But the American Psychological Association has so far declined to recognize video game addiction as a diagnosis.

The APA did, however, recently list "video game psychologist" as a "hot career" because the gaming industry is hiring psychologists as consultants.

Ariella Lehrer is a trained psychologist who designs games specifically for middle-aged women. Her company focuses on romance and mystery, including games based on the novels of Jane Austen and the popular TV detective show Murder She Wrote.

But Lehrer said the psychology behind the games is pure Las Vegas. With flashy graphics and intermittent rewards, games are calibrated to hook you within 20 minutes.

"We learned this with rats in a food pedestal," Lehrer said. "If you only occasionally give a reward then you keep going. That's what Las Vegas does. The rewards don't come every time."

Some of the most popular games follow a six-second rule. Every six seconds, a visual sparkle pops up to entice you to keep playing.

"The potency, if you will, of these video games is much more intense, more rewarding, more engaging than video games were 30 years ago," Fong said.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Shopaholic Fights Her Addiction

Jupiterimages/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Tawnie is one of nearly 18 million shopaholics in America.

“The average price I spend on a pair of jeans is usually $150 to $300–and I have at least 100 pairs,” she said on an episode of My Shopping Addiction, a show about compulsive shoppers that airs on the Oxygen network.

For recovering shopping addict Sarah Downey, who was also featured on the show, handbags and shoes are like designer drugs.

She’s even gone dumpster diving to satisfy her addiction.

Asked if that marked rock bottom for her, the Los Angeles resident gave a surprising answer: “That was my ultimate high,” she said.

Speaking in an interview that aired Monday on Good Morning America, she added: “At certain locations, you will see very affluent women jumping into dumpsters as well. I love it.”

Downey was so addicted that, in the course of four years, she spent thousands of dollars patronizing the one dozen thrift stores within walking distance from her studio apartment.

“It’s kind of better than sex,” she said of her habit, adding: “Well, I guess, you know, maybe I haven’t had very good lovers, but, you know,” Downey added.

Four years ago, Downey got a sudden and painful divorce after six years of marriage. The marriage had been filled with pricey shopping sprees, and when she and her husband split, she continued her shopping at thrift stores.

Downey got her wake-up call from psychologist Ramani Durvasula on My Shopping Addiction, a TV show on the Oxygen network.

Durvasula told Downey that she was 32 and broke, Downey recalled, adding: “You’re like ‘wow, you know, that hurts.’”

Durvasula described how people can recognize if they have a shopping problem.

“It’s a problem when we look at three major areas. Is it causing financial problems? Problem number two: your relationships. Number three: time,” she said.

Downey spent time shopping at the expense of personal relationships. Durvasula convinced her to donate hordes of merchandise and purchase only what she needs.

Many shopaholics are especially vulnerable to the temptation to spend more than they can afford over the holidays, but they are not alone, according to a new study conducted by Oxygen with Research Now. Half of Americans will spend more than they can afford this holiday season, according to the study, and 36 percent said they have gone into credit card debt in order to buy gifts.

Now, Downey’s life is different.

“In the last six months, I’ve probably shopped less than five times. So, huge change,” she said.

Now, when Downey cruises thrift stores, there’s no impulse to buy. When she walks into a store, she says, “It’s just like ‘I don’t have the time anymore.’”

That’s not to say she’s not tempted. She looks at a pair of red shoes, which she calls “pretty awesome,” but adds: “I’d like to have these, but I don’t need them.”

My Shopping Addiction
airs Mondays on Oxygen.


Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

ABC News Radio