Welcome to a blog on Virtual Worlds and social media

Deborah Butler's blog is about organisations and business and how they can benefit from virtual worlds. She also uses her favourite project, Virtual London inside the Second Life platform as a case study.
Deborah Butler works for Virtually Linked Limited, creators of London in Second Life and media streaming / 3d content and event organisers.
In Second Life, her well known Avatar is called 'Debs Regent'.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Do Virtual Worlds Cause Psychological Disorders Like Depression And Addiction?

A post at http://metaversetribune.com/2010/09/13/is-it-fair-to-blame-virtual-worlds/ prompts me to comment...

People with addictive personalities often find something to become addicted to, if not the Internet, a football team, if not a football team, a square of cloth. Addictive personalities are not the problem and nor are virtual worlds, society is the root cause of this addiction. Addictive brains have been scanned and it has been found that part of the brain are differently wired to that of a 'normal' person (if there is such a thing).

Lack of variety of tasks on offer in life, education imbalance that fails to engage the many parts of a person that are needed for a healthy psyche. In fact, I would go as far as to say that virtual worlds are a safety net up to a point. The addictive behaviour that separates part of oneself from everything else could be an alternative to medication. In fact, it could prevent medication totally when a support system is found inside the refuge of virtual worlds.

Also, people are there who can offer comfort, friendship and advice, some even who have gone through the same trials and tribulations. Virtual worlds can also provide an escape from socially restrictive circumstances, a 'hide way' from the harsh realities of life.

I am not saying we all should escape life, but depressives often sleep a lot and live in their dreams, awakening only to find the reality they cannot deal with in the first place. They are then treated with medication and either 'get better' or stay that way. What a better option to have an alternative 'fantasy world' with 'real people' that can help.

I agree with Catriona M. Morrison, DPhil, Institute of Psychological sciences from the University of Leeds Great Britain that “over-engaging in Web sites that serve to replace normal social function might be linked to psychological disorders like depression and addiction.”

However a link does not mean one causes the other. As Skylar Smythe points out, an 'association' does not suggest cause and effect. Many things are associated, yet one does not necessarily cause the one another and the cause / effect may even be reversed. No connection can be assumed until proven.

As a compulsion disorder, Internet Addiction is treated very much as other compulsion disorders, by replacing the addicts' source of 'addiction' with something else. It is not certain that the person may not form a similar addiction to the replacement, as that too may offer the succor that the 'Internet Addiction' provided in the first place.

What I would like to see is the people who treat these issues use virtual worlds to treat their patients with. After all, virtual worlds and virtual reality have been used to help patients with many other psychiatric disorders and phobias. http://vrlab.epfl.ch/~bhbn/psy/index-VR-Psychology.html

1 comment:

DrJonez said...

As a long time internet addict, game addict, socially awkward and introverted shy person i would like to say that virtual worlds are not a good idea for curing psychological disorders. In my 15+ years of experience being addicted i have come to the conclusion that: even though being anonymous gave me the courage to be more outgoing in a virtual world it did not have a similar effect in real life. in fact it actually has caused me to loose communication skills and become more insecure with myself in the real world. i cannot be successful in a real life society by clicking a mouse and typing on a keyboard. also, text cannot communicate the same way we do in real life. real communication involves timing, body language, voice inflection and other things that cannot be translated through text in a virtual environment. these virtual worlds should never been seen as anything more than a time waster for when you are bored with some extra time. for people with real psychological disorders, this environment may provide a perceived change through the illusion of greater self confidence but in the long term i feel that it will only increase the problems experienced by the disorder in real life. some rare cases may actually experience real life benefits, but as a majority i feel that virtual worlds can only do more harm to society as a whole than good.
-random gamer