Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Wilderness Day Group for Video Game Addicted Kids

                                  CYBER ADDICTION RECOVERY CENTER 
                                       CHRISTOPHER MULLIGAN LCSW
                                                       "Get Unplugged!
                Wilderness Adventures for “Tech” Dependent/Addicted Kids

Christopher Mulligan LCSW is offering therapeutic activities in our local-natural surroundings (Los Angeles) designed to help children and teens break the destructive cycle of compulsive internet and gaming behavior. Children/teens will be presented with the opportunity to participate in outdoor adventures that unfold in a therapeutic sequence that will develop self-awareness, physical skills, communication skills, trust in self and others, respect, psychological and physical courage, and empathy.

In order to create new and adaptive behaviors tech dependent/addicted children/teens must get “unplugged” from their home environment. Participating in outdoor activities is one of the most effective ways to help tech dependent/addicted children/teens create an accurate awareness of how technology is damaging the quality of their lives and develop new social skills and recreational interests that will help them “plug” in to a non technological dependent life style.

Prior to the start of each wilderness experience there will be a group check-in where therapists will facilitate introductions, allow for the exploration of each person’s history including what brings them to our program, set the stage for the events of the day, and focus on helping the group members develop their observational skills and a greater awareness of their environment as well as the impact they have on their environment.

Therapists will review and emphasize the importance of the safety of group members and discuss how communication, trust, and accountability factor into the activities chosen for a given day. Throughout the day therapists supervise and process individual and group dynamics and connect these dynamics to tech dependence/addiction. After the completion of the group activities, therapists check-in with the group and review reflections and lessons from the day.

Adventure 1: Day Hike Adventure 2: 2-Day Hike (1 Overnight) Adventure 3: Climbing Adventure 4: Learning to Rappel Adventure 5: Hiking and Rappelling Adventure 6: Multi-day Outing

For more information, contact Christopher Mulligan LCSW at 855-735-HELP (4357) or email

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Should private Social Media Communication Stop Between Students and Teachers?

Today there is a very interesting article on page 1 of the NY Sunday Times on school districts that are trying to limit or prevent private social media communication between students and teachers. Seems like a really good idea to me. What do you think?

Research: Video gaming youth have brains like gamblers!!

Research: Video gaming youth have brains like gamblers

. Posted in Gaming Addiction

Children who love video games have brains like gamblers

Certain children's brains could be hard-wired to spend hours playing video games, according to a study which reignites the debate over whether the habit should be considered an addiction.
Dr Simone Kuhn of Ghent University in Belgium, who led the research, said: "Although our subjects were not addicted to video games in the strict diagnostic sense, the current result seems to suggest that video gaming is related to addiction."
Dr Henrietta Bowden-Jones, a neuroscientist from Imperial College London, said the findings "further close the gap between this activity and other addictions, giving us a better understanding of possible long term treatment."
Read the journal article at the Telegraph
Citation: Translational Psychiatry (2011) 1, e53; doi:10.1038/tp.2011.53 Published online 15 November 2011

The neural basis of video gaming

S Kühn1,2,3, A Romanowski2, C Schilling2, R Lorenz2, C Mörsen2, N Seiferth2, T Banaschewski4, A Barbot5, G J Barker6, C Büchel7, P J Conrod6, J W Dalley8,9, H Flor10, H Garavan11, B Ittermann3, K Mann12, J-L Martinot13,14, T Paus15,16,17, M Rietschel18, M N Smolka19,20, A Ströhle1, B Walaszek3, G Schumann6, A Heinz2 and J Gallinat2 The IMAGEN Consortium
Video game playing is a frequent recreational activity. Previous studies have reported an involvement of dopamine-related ventral striatum. However, structural brain correlates of video game playing have not been investigated. On magnetic resonance imaging scans of 154 14-year-olds, we computed voxel-based morphometry to explore differences between frequent and infrequent video game players. Moreover, we assessed the Monetary Incentive Delay (MID) task during functional magnetic resonance imaging and the Cambridge Gambling Task (CGT). We found higher left striatal grey matter volume when comparing frequent against infrequent video game players that was negatively correlated with deliberation time in CGT. Within the same region, we found an activity difference in MID task: frequent compared with infrequent video game players showed enhanced activity during feedback of loss compared with no loss. This activity was likewise negatively correlated with deliberation time. The association of video game playing with higher left ventral striatum volume could reflect altered reward processing and represent adaptive neural plasticity.
Download a .pdf copy of the research article: The neural basis of video gaming at

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Do Teens Have Different Types of Sex Addiction?

Ten Types of Sex Addiction in "Don't Call It Love"

Patterns of Addictive Sexual Behaviors

Below is an excellent summary of 10 types of sex addiction idenified by Dr. Patrick Carnes in a blog by , of Guide. Dr. Carnes has focused on adult sexual behavior and the 10 types of behavior below apply to adults. Do they also apply to teens? Certainly the application to teens can be debated, but there is little doubt that teens who are engaged in online sex or cyber sex are vulnerable to compulsive "fantasy sex," "anonymous sex," "paying for sex," and "voyeuristic sex."

Updated July 31, 2010
In his book, "Don't Call It Love," sex addiction expert Dr. Patrick Carnes described 10 types of addictive sexual behavior. As the title, "Don't Call It Love" suggests, each type of sexual addiction puts distance between people, in contrast with the closeness and intimacy they experience with genuine love.
Opinions about what constitutes problematic behavior vary among professionals and the public. Clearly, some of these behaviors, such as fantasy sex, can occur in moderation within healthy sexual relationships, while others, such as exploitative sex, are highly problematic in any context.

1. Fantasy sex

Fantasy sex is an obsession with sexual fantasy, rather than the reality of genuine sexual feelings, sexual behavior, and sexual relationships. The fantasies can be so intense and overwhelming that they are a major preoccupation for the individual involved. As the fantasy is a way of escaping from reality, it can prevent a person from developing genuine loving feelings, which are based on accepting the other person the way they really are.
2. Seductive role sex
Seductive sex focuses on charming, persuading or manipulating others into sexual contact, and involves treating the other person as a "conquest" or a challenge, rather than someone else to connect with. The other person becomes an object the seducer uses to make himself or herself feel more powerful. People who get addicted to seductive sex may have multiple relationships, affairs, and/or unsuccessful serial relationships.

3. Anonymous sex

Anonymous sex is becoming sexually aroused through having sex with strangers. This may involve engaging in sex with anonymous partners, or having one-night stands. Obviously, anonymous sex makes it impossible to develop genuine loving feelings towards the other person, because they cease to be sexually interesting when the partners get to know each other.

4. Paying for sex

The financial basis of sexual contact when a person pays for prostitutes or for sexually explicit phone calls also inhibits genuine connection, because the implication is that sex is a business arrangement, and that the person being paid is having sex for financial gain, not because he or she is interested in developing a loving relationship with the paying partner.

5. Trading sex

The other side of the paying-for-sex transaction is receiving money or drugs for sex or using sex as a business. For these individuals, sex is treated as a commodity, rather than a personal experience. Whether the person trading sex feels empowered by charging a fee for sexual services, or whether they feel financially desperate, dependent on drugs or believe trading sex is necessary for their means of survival, trading sex can diminish emotional connections to sex.

6. Voyeuristic sex

Voyeuristic sex is focused on observing other people engaged in sexual activity, rather than engaging in sexual contact yourself. This can involve getting sexually aroused using pornographic pictures in books, magazines, the computer, pornographic films, peep-shows or secretly observing other people when they might be naked or having sex. Voyeurism tends to be combined with excessive masturbation, even to the point of injury. As the voyeur is engaging in solitary activities, rather than connecting with the object of their desire, and exploiting the other person or people without their knowledge, intimacy and love are not an option.

7. Exhibitionistic sex

Exhibitionist includes flashing sexual parts of the body in public, sometimes while wearing clothes designed to expose. Posing for pornographic pictures or films, or having sex where others can see are also forms of exhibitionism. Exhibitionism can override genuine loving connections because the excitement comes from the reaction -- typically of shock or disapproval -- of the audience, not from the sexual contact with your partner.

8. Intrusive sex

Intrusive sex involves touching others in a sexual way -- such as touching their penis, vulva, buttocks or breasts -- without permission. Intrusive sex may involve the use of a position of power or authority, such as the role of priest, parent or teacher, to sexually exploit another person. Because intrusive sex is by it's nature exploitative, making it impossible to form the basis for trust or love, although victims may experience feelings of loyalty towards authority figures that they misconstrue as love.
9. Pain exchange
The giving or receiving of pain, also known as sadomasochism or S&M, is a type of sexually addictive behavior in which pain is associated with sexual pleasure. There is a blatant imbalance of power between the giver and the receiver, although both partners may be consenting. As with intrusive sex, victims may perceive their feelings towards their torturer as loving, but there is no genuine trust or intimacy when a relationship is based on hurting one another.

10. Exploitative sex

Exploitative sex is a step beyond intrusive sex, and involves the forcing another person to engage in sexual contact. Rape and sex with children or other vulnerable people are types of exploitative sex. Because one person is being violated by the other, there is no possibility for genuine love or intimacy to develop, and usually the opposite emotions are provoked in the victim.
If you, as a parent, suspect your child/teen has crossed the line and is engaging in any/all of the above types of sex addiction, reach out for help as soon as is possible. It is very diificult to admit that a child/teen has a sexual behavior problem, so the inclination is to deny/hide/avoid. Time is a very important factor in the development of a serious problem with sex addiction. Ask for guidance. Don't let shame get the best of you. Call 855-735-HELP for a fully confidential assessment.
Chris Mulligan LCSW

Bully Proof Your Child!

Here is a really effective set of guidelines for protecting your child/teen from bullying fro

Bully-proofing My Child

Bullying is not a normal rite of passage.  It can have serious consequences.  You can help your child learn how to prevent bullying.  These tips can help:
  • Help your child understand bullying.  Explain what bullying is. It is more than physical; it can be done in person or over the phone or computer.
  • Keep open lines of communication with your child.  Check in with your child and listen to any concerns about friends and other students.
  • Encourage your child to pursue their interests. Doing what they love may help your child be more confident among their peers and make friends with other kids with similar interests. 
  • Teach your child to take a stand against bullying.  Give guidance about how to stand up to those who bully if it is safe to do so. 
  • Talk to your child about seeking help from a trusted adult when feeling threatened by a bully. Talk about whom they should go to for help and role-play what they should say. Assure your child that they should not be afraid to tell an adult when someone they know is being bullied.
  • Know what is going on in your child's school.  Visit the school website, subscribe to the student paper—if there is one—and join the PTA listserv or mailing list. Get to know other parents, school counselors, and staff.  Contact the school by phone or e-mail if you have suggestions to make the school a safer and better learning place.


Here is a great website:

Responding to Bullying

How you and your entire school community respond to bullying makes a huge difference in both the moment the bullying occurs and preventing bullying in the future.

How Bullying Affects a School

Bullying negatively affects the atmosphere of the school and disrupts the learning environment:
  • Student achievement suffers among both the students who are bullied and those who engage in bullying. Students who bully and students who are bullied by others are more likely to skip and/or drop out of school.
  • Teacher morale declines amid harmful social dynamics in the classroom that interfere with discipline and learning.
  • Adult-student relationships suffer.  Students who witness bullying can become fearful and develop the belief that the adults are not in control or are uncaring.
  • Parent confidence and trust in the school erodes when students experience bullying or are accused of bullying others.

Additional Resources

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Teen Video Game Addiction and the Loss of Social Growth.

When we think about the potential damage to teens from compulsive gaming, perhaps the most significant problem is the lost social "practice" time. As teens struggle to figure out peer relationships -- especially dating -- they go through hundreds and hundreds of learning trials. They practice approaching groups, keeping a conversation going, the art of sarcasm, how to make plans in a way that is inviting to a peer, and of course, being rejected. Personal identity is also a long process filled with ups and downs, wins and losses, coherence and disorganization. It's not so much a matter of the teen years being filled with drama and upheaval, but more that teens need a lot of time to grow and season.

For each hour spent deep in a fantasy land, building an army, creating wealth, etc., is time a learning trial is lost forever. The ratio isn't one to one -- meaning for every one hour in video game mode is one hour lost in reality. The cost is much greater. As typical teens create growth through risk taking in the real world, the video gamer falls further and further behind. Six months of compulsive gaming can result in a gap of twelve months of growth. At a certain point, the gap becomes so large that the gamer can't see any way to fit in and thus turns more deeply into his fantasy life.

The key is to try to head off/prevent these losses from happening by carefully monitoring time spent in "real time" with real friends. If you see a trend of withdrawal and avoidance, be prepared to act decisively to set clear limits so that your teen can keep pace with his peers and not get lost in a role playing game, potentially forever.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Teen video game addiction website!

Dear blog readers, I have just created a new website that focuses on mental health treatment for child/teen video game and net addiction. The purpose of the site is to help parents understand addiction and find appropriate mental health care. Check it out and let me know what you think!

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Tipe of the Day from The Most Addictive Games

Most Addictive Video Games - Internet Addiction Tips
"Nothing to see here."
Given that the vast majority of American and Canadian households now have computers, internet access, and in many cases game consoles, access to video games has never been easier. Videogames are a multi-billion dollar industry and sales increase steadily year after year. An eagerly anticipated new game title can easily surpass the box office receipts of major movie releases. For example, Halo 3 for the XBox 360 brought in $170 million in its first day while Spiderman 3 earned $59 million on opening day.
Considering the size of the game industry, consumers have an almost overwhelming selection of titles to choose from. However, some choices are better than others...
When parents shop for a new game for their child they are able to check the ESRB rating printed on the front of the box to see if the content is appropriate for the age of their child. For example an "E" (Everyone) rating indicates that the game is "suitable for ages 6 and older", while a "M" (Mature) rating indicates that the game has content "suitable for persons age 17 and older".
How can one avoid the most addictive video games? Unfortunately there is no rating to indicate the potentially addictive nature of the game. Of course it would be nearly impossible to devise a rating system for "addictiveness" - and TechAddiction certainly does not believe that this is a practical solution. As we have written before, most people can play most games without becoming addicted - they know when to stop and are interested in many activities other than gaming. However, there are certain games which do seem to have a higher risk of turning into an addiction.
What are the most addictive video games?
Based on the clients I see in my own clinical practice, from speaking to other therapists, and from newly emerging research in the field, you may want to reconsider your decision to get involved with the following games due to their potentially addictive nature. A list of the most addictive video games may include:
1) World of Warcraft 2) Everquest 3) Second Life 4) Diablo 2 5) Eve Online
The easiest way to be a non-smoker is to never start. Similarly, the best way to avoid becoming addicted to a game is to not buy it. Simple, but true. Hopefully, being aware of some of the most addicitve video games should help you avoid bringing these games into your home.
If you are considering buying one of these video games, ask yourself if it is really worth the risk. What do you have to lose by starting one of these games? Well, depending on who you are: Your marriage, your boyfriend / girlfriend, your school grades, your university degree, your scholarship, your savings, your friends, your health, your job...
There are literally thousands of other video games which are less likely to become addictive. Again, TechAddiction realizes that most people can play these games without becoming addicted, but if you haven't already started playing, why take the risk? When you see these games in a store, you may want to just keep walking - you have nothing to gain and potentially a lot to lose.
One final thought: You may have noticed that all of the most addictive video games listed above are MMORPGs (Massively Multiplayer Online Role Playing Games). In next month's tip, TechAddiction will outline why this type of game seems to result in addiction more than any other genre.
Good luck!

Saturday, December 3, 2011

The Myth of Cyber Bullying: Sophie Prince

CNN did a piece on Sophie Prince -- the Irish 15 high school student who committed suicide outside of Boston last year due to bullying (on Piers Morgan 11/30/11). Sophie's mother was interviewed and in the context of the interview she stated that cyber bullying had very little to do with Sophie's suicide. Most of the truly horrific cyber comments on Facebook occurred AFTER Sophie was dead. The day-in-and-day-out bullying happened fact-to-face while Sophie was at school, with other children and adults around.

The Berkman Center at Harvard made this same point last year in a summary of current research on bullying: most youth fear and are most affected by OFFLINE bullying/aggression/intimidation. They key here is to remember that students and staff in school settings are on the front line of bullying and are in the best position to stop bullying. Cyber attacks are terrible, but they are not as destructive or as prevalent at old fashioned, in the hallway way or in the bathroom bullying that occurs at school.