Aspergers Teens and Online Gaming Addiction

For many children and teens, computers offer an escape from difficult social situations along with a partial remedy for the loneliness of Aspergers (High-Functioning Autism).

The PC itself offers a predictable false-companionship, and teens who use computers may also band together in common-interest clubs. Such teens may become involved with PCs to the exclusion of almost every other hobby.

Despite the fact that there's a lot of mayhem on the web, inter-personal contact on the web can provide a "nerdy child" a level of defense against actual face-to-face contact. For example, in chat rooms, body language, facial expression, intonation, pacing, and timing of speech are removed in the interpersonal exchange. In role playing games, the interactions between participants are influenced by guidelines associated with traits the virtual person has accrued throughout play. A young man who's just a geek in class may become a strong and dreaded warrior within an online fantasy game.

Since a number of these children are so hungry for interpersonal connection, most of them invest a massive amount of time at their PCs, ignoring family members, homework, and much of the "real world." Even worse, for sleep patterns, the PC is "usually open." A number of these kids fall asleep later and later, particularly in the summertime, ultimately moving their sleep cycle so that they snooze when the rest of the family is up. This only worsens their lack of social skills, regardless of how successful their virtual character is becoming inside an online fantasy game.

While such cases are rare, mental-health professionals say the fantasy worlds offered by video games can become the stuff of very real addictions that destroy the education of an Aspergers teen. It's a huge and growing problem with older teenage males and young adult males with Aspergers. I've seen a number of cases with 18- to 23-year-old males where they have an Internet connection, and they basically haven't left the house for years. I had one young man who was trying to get on Social Security disability for agoraphobia. He didn't really have agoraphobia …he just didn't want to leave his computer.

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