Computer, Video Games and Psychosis: Cause for Concern

“I hear voices at night, and sometimes I think someone’s outside my window,” the 19-year-old young man informed me. “I know no one’s really there, but it’s still scary.”

In my practice in the past six months, no less than 5 youths have reported psychotic symptoms that were attributed to, or exacerbated by, electronic screens. As per my protocol, I always get an “e-screen” history:

  • video games
  • computer/internet use
  • cell phone use (talking, texting, streaming, and internet).

Not surprisingly, all five of these patients, ranging from 15-22 years old, were “plugged in” for six or more hours each day. Three were female and two male. After discussing e-screen’s toxic influence on the brain, I recommended to each of these patients that they forego all electronic screens for at least four weeks.

Results? The three females all went cold turkey and gave up their games, laptops, and phones. All three saw their symptoms resolve completely within a month. Of the two males, one cut down screen use significantly and his hallucinations disappeared. His paranoia remained but was less severe and caused less dysfunction. The other male turned out to be severely addicted to electronic games and refused to give up video games and computers (a subject for another article entirely! Needless to say, unfortunately he continues to suffer from psychosis).

Importantly, the therapeutic effects were achieved without using medication!

Electronic screens, particularly interactive ones (as opposed to passive ones, like television), increase dopamine in the brain. This effect has been demonstrated by brain scan (Koepp, 1998). This neurotransmitter is a chemical signaler in the brain’s reward system, and its release is why games can be so addicting. Perhaps more disturbing, dopamine excess in certain parts of the brain can lead to psychotic symptoms-voices, delusions, paranoia, or confusion.

Psychosis is defined by abnormal thoughts. This can involve thought content, such as hallucinations, delusions, or paranoia, or thought process (highly disorganized thinking, or feeling thoughts are “blocked”). It is typically attributed to the severely mentally ill, like schizophrenics, but can also be seen in “normal” people under extreme stress. Children in particular are more likely to hallucinate when traumatized, sleep-deprived, or over-stimulated. E-screens cause or mimic all three of these!

Take home point: Children, teens, and young adults who have unexplained hallucinations or delusions should have ALL electronic screens removed for at least 3 weeks, as part of the diagnostic process. This includes cell phones, as cell phone texting and internet use can quickly rack up hours, and most teens cannot control their usage. While this may seem extreme, drastic times cause for drastic measures. Psychosis–and treatment thereof–is serious and has long-lasting effects.

As psychiatric disorders in young people continue to explode, and evidence mounts about the toxic effects of e-screens on the developing brain, parents and clinicians would be prudent to remove this offending environmental trigger from the child’s life, as part of the diagnostic process, and as one “arm” of the treatment plan.

When you start to feel conflicted about removing screens-they are so ingrained in our lives, after all-this is what I tell my patients and their parents:

“You will never regret removing video games and computer use, but you may sorely regret leaving them in place.”

Tips When Shopping For a Gaming Laptop Computer

For the serious gamer any old laptop will not do, you should have a gaming laptop computer. How do you buy the right laptop? What specifications should the laptop have? It is always best to know what you want and have a clear objective before you go shopping. On of the best ways of finding out what is available open the market is to research the products on the internet, read reviews and visit forum sites to discuss the models you are interested in.

Why do you need to buy a special laptop for your gaming? If you are puzzled about this aspect of gaming keep reading to learn why. These laptops are specially designed to support high definition gaming requirements that video games place on machines. The new game versions all require machines that can read high end graphics, pushing computers to the maximum limits. There are games that are so challenging they exceed the highest definition computer’s ability to play them.

You need to rule out any laptop offering integrated graphics. Even if the processor is very fast and the design very good, it will not give you the necessary frame rates that the game requires.

The graphics processing (GPU) unit is the heart of your laptop and will either make or break your gaming experience. Simply put, if the GPU is not up to speed your games will not play! When you choose your GPU make sure there is no resource sharing with the computer; laptops for gaming need a video card with its own memory board.

Buying a laptop specifically for your gaming is an investment in the most advanced technology available at present and also caters to some future developments as well. A regular laptop is not designed to play high end games and will crash.

You need to stuff the laptop chock full with RAM; this will determine the number of graphics your laptop will be able to handle at any given time. Obviously more is better! 1GB of RAM is good but 2 GB of RAM is even better; Windows Vista requires 3 GB of RAM. Less means placing limitations on your system’s ability to play certain games or else the game may play but the graphics will be hazy at best.

A high resolution minimum 17 inch LCD screen is required and the resolution should be at least 1280×1024 at least. What good is a laptop without the right screen? Some features you may want to concentrate on include: native resolution, aspect ratio, contrast, viewing angle, size and rise and fall times.

The hard drive is yet another important component in a laptop used for gaming. Hard drives come in a wide variety of speeds and capacities that range from 40 to over 100 GBs. Normally user preference dictates the RPMs and GBs you choose for your hard drive.

In the end it all comes down to power; always remember that more is better in the case of a gaming laptop computer.

Welcome to the World Of Gaming Notebook Computers

As notebook computers have gained in popularity, gamers have begun adapting them to their own needs. Gaming notebook computers are a totally separate entity from regular laptops and desktop computers.

Conventional notebook computers and those designed for gaming do have one big factor in common though. They’re both designed with portability in mind. In the past, people who have wanted to attend a LAN (Local Area Network) party would have to unplug their desktop gaming computer and lug it to where the event was taking place. Now, it’s just a matter of putting your dedicated laptop in a backpack and going.

Just as desktop gaming computers have their own special requirements, so do gaming laptops. For starters, consider a model that uses a desktop CPU instead of a mobile CPU. The desktop processor uses a faster FSB (Front Side Bus) than what’s normally found in a laptop. The speed of the FSB is what establishes how responsive the computer will be because it’s what communicates with the RAM and the motherboard. Another important consideration is the video card. Older type laptops have video cards that use the main system RAM. This slows down the computer. Normally you can’t swap out the video card in a laptop. So it’s important to get one that has enough power for your anticipated needs.

It’s also important that any laptop that’s going to be mainly used for gaming has a dedicated memory card. Some of the top models to look for are the Nvidia GeForce Go 6800 and GeForce FX Go 5700, the ATI Mobility Radeon 9800, ATI Mobility Radeon 9700 and the ATI Mobility Radeon 9600. Also carefully consider the hard drive. It’s important to have enough capacity on your hard drive to hold your games. Most experts suggest a minimum of 60GB, although more is better.

An external USB mouse can make the gaming experience much more enjoyable. A laptops touch pad can be hard to work quickly enough in a high speed game. You might also consider an additional external battery since gaming places such large demands on available power. Many of the newer gaming laptops have hot-swappable bays that allow the player to switch out components like disk drives and batteries while the computer is running.

The manufacturer of gaming laptops used to be limited to just a few specialty builders. Now even major players like Dell, Sony and Hewlett-Packard have entries in the marketplace. With the addition of the big players, now’s a great time for those looking at gaming notebook computers.