WASHINGTON — Candy Crush is one of the top games in the App Store. And, judging by the incessant invites from Facebook friends, those who play, play a lot.
But they might be singing a different tune when the tendons in their hands rupture. Yep.
In a new journal entry in JAMA Internal Medicine, doctors discuss the case of a 29-year-old man who approached physicians after his left thumb became painful and he lost active motion. It turns out the patient had been playing Candy Crush, a matching game, “all day for 6 to 8 weeks.”
The tendon, which controlled his ability to extend his thumb, had to be surgically repaired.
Needless to say, doctors are concerned. Buy beyond the physical harm excessive playing causes, doctors in the study wrote that the behavior is a type of coping mechanism to avoid the “perception of pain,” leading to addiction.
While the idea of someone using Candy Crush as a coping mechanism to avoid the painful realities of life seems silly, increased concern about gaming and Internet addiction has been around for years. The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders first mentioned the issue of Internet and gaming addiction in 2013 calling it a “new phenomenon” that needed more research before determining if it should be listed as an actual disorder.
In South Korea, which has been a leader into the study of gaming addiction, about 10 percent of kids between the ages of 10 and 19 are considered Internet addicts.
Formerly a professor at Chung-Ang University Hospital in Seoul and now at the University of Utah, psychiatrist Dr. Han Doug-hyun has researched and treated gaming addiction. Here are five warning signs he offers for gaming and Internet addiction:
- Disrupted regular life pattern. If a person plays games all night long and sleeps in the daytime, that can be a warning he or she should seek professional help.
- If the potential gaming or Internet addict loses his or her job, or stops going to school in order to be online or to play a digital game.
- Need for a bigger fix. Does the gamer have to play for longer and longer periods in order to get the same level of enjoyment from the game?
- Withdrawal. Some Internet and gaming addicts become irritable or anxious when they disconnect, or when they are forced to do so.
- Cravings. Some Internet and gaming addicts experience cravings, or the need to play the game or be online when they are away from the digital world.
Even if gaming addiction isn’t a concern for frequent smartphone users, there can be physical consequences. Excessive texting and phone use in general, especially when it comes to thumbs, is known to cause tendinitis.
The Mayo Clinic advises stretching, non-repetitive motions and proper ergonomics to help prevent and relieve tendon problems in the hands.