• Former gaming addict warns: 'You lose everything that makes you human'


    Go anywhere and you'll see people so locked in on their screens that they're barely aware of what's going on around them. It's happening inside homes too, especially with kids and video games.

    All of that screen time takes a mental toll, and researchers are finding it's creating an epidemic with dire consequences.

    As Boston 25 News told you last year, the World Health Organization has recognized 'gaming disorder' as a disease.

    “I believe it is an epidemic. I believe it affects one child in every home in this country,” said Melanie Hempe.  She says her son Adam is recovering from gaming addiction.

    When he was a freshman in college he started failing classes.

    “There was a week where I just didn't even go to class. I was just playing video games all day. All day. That week is when I realized something is wrong’,” said Adam Brooker.

    He ended up dropping out and told his family he needed help.

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    Melanie is a nurse and started researching. She quickly realized gaming and screen addiction was a very real problem.

    The problem turned deadly for the son of Liz Woolley.  She says Shawn started playing the online game 'Everquest' in 2001.  

    “After three months he quit his job and he started to play this game morning, noon and night. He just became anti-social and depressed,” Woolley said.

    Liz says Shawn spiraled out of control.

    After being kicked out of his apartment, Shawn made a decision that Liz says, haunts her.

    “I went to get him on Thanksgiving. And I found him in his apartment. And he had killed himself in front of the computer with the game on it. When I saw that, I said, ‘he's sending me a message because why else would he kill himself in front of the computer with the game on it?’” Liz painfully recalled. 

    As news of her son's suicide spread, Liz began hearing from other families battling video game addiction. She's dedicated her life-- to sparing others her pain.

    She has a simple test for families.

    If your child has a meltdown when you turn off their game or take away their screen, they could be developing a problem. Liz says the longer it goes on, the bigger the chance of mental health issues.

    “Depression is just an automatic pretty much. Once you are addicted to games you lose anything that makes you human,” Brooker said.

    Both his family and the Woolley family suggest a detox.

    >> No screens for days: A family's digital detox challenge

    Take the screens away, cold turkey, for a period of time.

    That's what worked for Adam Brooker. He quit gaming -- and joined the Army.

    “More and more people are realizing that this is turning into a problem because of how society is turning out,”  Liz Woolley concluded

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