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how does autism influence your addiction & recovery?


juss_stevenson
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Hi all,

Here's a few questions that I've been asking myself for a long time now, since all of these questions apply to me as a gaming addict with Autism. If you're on the spectrum, or have somebody you love who has, would you mind contributing to this post? The research says that gaming addiction is quite high amongst those on the Autistic Spectrum, but there is very little research actually explaining why this is (as far as my knowledge is). There really isn't a lot of research out there talking about specifically why there is a link. I personally have been doing recovery related things for just over 2 1/2 years, although it's never really "clicked" yet. I've been doing 

If I got everybody to answer all these questions, these might make for some very long posts. Maybe just pick a question and answer it to the best of your knowledge, if you would like to contribute. I also will be contributing my own thoughts when they come.

  • Why are video games uniquely appealing to you? What made you pick video games over any other addiction that could be meeting the same needs (gambling, netflix, porn/sex, alcohol, drugs, workaholism, etc)?
  • How has your Autistic traits made it difficult to function in real life:
    • As a kid?
    • As an adolescent?
    • As an adult?
  • What emotional/spiritual/relational needs does gaming attempt to meet in your life that you felt like you had a lack of due to your upbringing as an autistic person?
  • Given what you've experienced growing up, do you think that if you didn't have Autism, you would still be an addict? Why or why not?
  • Coming into gaming recovery, what challenges did you find you now had to face that were unexpected? What battles do you fight that you knew you would have to deal with going into recovery?
  • What triggers have you had to avoid in order to see success in recovery (whether uniquely Autism sourced or not)? (ex: certain stimulants, entertainment, boundaries, etc)
  • Have you noticed any Autistic traits in other non-Autistic gaming addicts?
  • Consider the following statement: "Autism is an addiction disorder." Is this true or false? Partially?
  • What stimming options have you tried to replace the destructive addictive behavior with? Is this a realistic idea?

Not looking for perfect scientific answers, but more your thoughts based on experience. (But if you want to reference something scientific and scholarly, that would be cool too!)

Edited by juss_stevenson
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3 minutes ago, juss_stevenson said:
  • Given what you've experienced growing up, do you think that if you didn't have Autism, you would still be an addict? Why or why not?

Well, none of my family members are addicts, despite going through more or less the same stuff that I have (aside from the autism). So it's easy for myself to blame the autism and think that "If only I didn't have that problem, then I wouldn't be in this mess!" But actually, considering the social isolation I felt and the family dysfunction, it may as well have happened to me. But also this question in a sense doesn't really touch on what addiction really is - just a blame game. If you keep blaming other people, events or "happenstances" for your problems, you'll never see any meaningful success in your life. That being said, considering I think there are a lot of similarities between the two, I think it could be very realistic that I could still have my learned dysfunction. If I had a "cure Autism pill", I don't think my problems would really go away. It can just be a big excuse.

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On 6/10/2019 at 8:13 PM, juss_stevenson said:

Why are video games uniquely appealing to you? What made you pick video games over any other addiction that could be meeting the same needs (gambling, netflix, porn/sex, alcohol, drugs, workaholism, etc)?

Because I did found them to be harmless as a child. With experience, it usually takes time to become more addictively quicker than you used to, so you get sucked into your own comfort zone. Then what happens? You get more and more isolated from family and friends. All the sudden, you are like a lone wolf who is up from 5pm to 7am. You are wasting your time just being lazy, so you think what am I gonna do with my life right now. You'll end up being more naturally responsible for the real world in the end. Over the same need of addiction as a child, it is really nothing in general but TV and Hollywood movies is something we - the 2000s kids - all grew up watching before streaming services and social media. Besides gaming, I go web surfing and I still do websurf as an adult. Remember #somuchinfosolittletime.

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On 6/15/2019 at 11:07 PM, Natalie said:

Because I did found them to be harmless as a child. With experience, it usually takes time to become more addictively quicker than you used to, so you get sucked into your own comfort zone. Then what happens? You get more and more isolated from family and friends. All the sudden, you are like a lone wolf who is up from 5pm to 7am. You are wasting your time just being lazy, so you think what am I gonna do with my life right now. You'll end up being more naturally responsible for the real world in the end. Over the same need of addiction as a child, it is really nothing in general but TV and Hollywood movies is something we - the 2000s kids - all grew up watching before streaming services and social media. Besides gaming, I go web surfing and I still do websurf as an adult. Remember #somuchinfosolittletime.

Thanks for sharing Natalie. I too have found that social acceptance was a huge draw to video games - even though I truly was isolating from the real relationships that mattered through family. I had more control and a sense of power through a digital framework. This brings such a deep sense of shame, especially when we know that this isn't the way that we are "supposed" to relate to others.

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  • 1 year later...
On 6/10/2019 at 10:13 PM, juss_stevenson said:

Why are video games uniquely appealing to you? What made you pick video games over any other addiction that could be meeting the same needs (gambling, netflix, porn/sex, alcohol, drugs, workaholism, etc)?

Like most people, what makes video games appealing to me is the social acceptance. It's so much easier for me to get in some gaming lobby and talk to my fellow teammates than to socialize in the real world. They don't know, nor care about what I look like or if my body language is "correct" like a NT's. In the gaming world, I could make jokes that gamers would make them laugh their asses off, but regular people would find either too disgusting or too edgy.

Of course it's not all black and white. I've run into plenty of assholes online, and I've met some truly nice people in the real world. But most of the time (especially at work and just in the general public) I feel like people just look at me like I'm some weirdo, even though I've never done anything truly wrong (other than not being "normal" enough.). A feeling I don't get when I'm at home playing video games.

On 6/10/2019 at 10:13 PM, juss_stevenson said:

How has your Autistic traits made it difficult to function in real life:

  • As a kid?
  • As an adolescent?
  • As an adult?

 

Basically throughout all of my life I struggled to socialize and make friends. I was often bullied, ostracized, and seen as a weirdo. Because of this, I often spent hours alone in my room playing video games and surfing the web. I certainly regret not going out more in my teen years, but why would I do that when the online world was where I was respected and liked?

On 6/10/2019 at 10:13 PM, juss_stevenson said:

What emotional/spiritual/relational needs does gaming attempt to meet in your life that you felt like you had a lack of due to your upbringing as an autistic person?

Social acceptance like I mentioned earlier, along with fairness. Another thing I like about video games is that the AI/Game itself doesn't care about what I look like or how I act. Video games don't ostracize me, or yell at me for making a mistake. The worst that could happen is I get a game over screen and have to go back to the last checkpoint. Plus, Video games have a clear set of rules I can go by. Unlike the real world, I know what to do and how to do it.

On 6/10/2019 at 10:13 PM, juss_stevenson said:

Given what you've experienced growing up, do you think that if you didn't have Autism, you would still be an addict? Why or why not?

It depends. If I was still bullied and ostracized growing up, I think things would have stayed mostly the same. The only saving grace would be that I would have had an easier time socializing, so I would have had more "motivation" to quit games (ie: real life friends, places I can go to socialize, etc.). Not saying I don't have these things irl, I just feel like if I were a NT I would've felt like I belonged in the real world, rather than the gaming one.

On 6/10/2019 at 10:13 PM, juss_stevenson said:

Coming into gaming recovery, what challenges did you find you now had to face that were unexpected? What battles do you fight that you knew you would have to deal with going into recovery?

Even though I'm still technically a gamer (yeah, sorry Cam), I have attempted to quit in the past, to no success.

When I first tried to quit, I thought it was as simple as just uninstalling steam, then going out and socializing more (this was before my diagnosis). But because I wasn't normal, I was still bullied and ostracized. I didn't really expect that I would still be ostracized all the way up to adulthood. I thought that it was just the kids and teens who were jerks, but then when people grew up they would be more accepting and tolerant. But I guess I was mistaken. In fact, even today that stands as the biggest obstacle between me, and the gaming-free life I craved once upon a time.

Every time I think about trying again, dropping the games and living life I want to live in the real world I'm reminded of why I got into gaming in the first place, every time I step outside of my house.

On 6/10/2019 at 10:13 PM, juss_stevenson said:

What triggers have you had to avoid in order to see success in recovery (whether uniquely Autism sourced or not)? (ex: certain stimulants, entertainment, boundaries, etc)

I don't think I've seen much success (so far), but I would say my biggest triggers would be the lack of social connection in the real world, along with browsing game related stuff online. Since a lot of heavy internet users are also gamers, it often feels like a lose-lose situation when I try (or tried) to quit.

On 6/10/2019 at 10:13 PM, juss_stevenson said:

Have you noticed any Autistic traits in other non-Autistic gaming addicts?

I couldn't tell you for the life of me who has autism and who doesn't, unless they specifically told me. But if I had to guess I would say I see a little bit of social withdrawal, along with a tendency to talk about nothing but video games (restricted interests).

On 6/10/2019 at 10:13 PM, juss_stevenson said:

Consider the following statement: "Autism is an addiction disorder." Is this true or false? Partially?

I consider this partially true. While I don't believe Autism itself is an addiction disorder, I DO believe that autistic people are a bit more predisposed to addiction (specifically, stuff like porn, gaming, drugs, internet, etc.). Both due to genetic factors (ie: symptoms of autism itself) but more importantly, environmental factors. With social isolation being the biggest of them all. The opposite of addiction is connection. Ask yourself this:

If, generally speaking, people IRL were nice and friendly, but people in the gaming world were basement dwelling assholes who hated you with a burning passion, what would you do? Would you hang out with the "real" people, or the basement dwellers? I'm guessing you would pick the real people in the real world. Who gives a fuck what a bunch of basement dwellers think?

Now what if the opposite was true. Let's say every time you stepped out of your house, people just flat out hated you. No matter what you did, every little mistake you made was met with harsh criticism. Everyone who even as much as looked at you wanted you dead. You don't know what you did wrong, nor will you ever know. Because nobody even wants to take five seconds to tell you. You just don't fit in, period. But every time you went on some video game you met some really cool people. In the gaming world, you could find people that like you, that can relate to you (and you can relate to them), for once, you feel like you belong.

Would you even want to go outside at that point?

Edited by deadspider
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