Hooked on video games: Doctor tells story of his gaming addiction

Dr. Andrew Doan is a father, husband and surgeon.

It's not the typical profile of a video gamer. But Doan was not only a gamer, he was an addict whose life was nearly destroyed by video games.

Doan escaped Vietnam in 1975 with his family. After living in South Dakota for a year, they moved to Aloha. Once there, the family struggled to make a success out of their small business.

"They would turn off the heat in the winter in Oregon," Doan said. "I remember writing my name on the inside of the house, because the frost was on the inside. So money was a huge deal for us."

After attending Reed College and working as a neuroscience intern at the Oregon National Primate Research Center in Beaverton, Doan got a full scholarship to Johns Hopkins Medical School in Maryland.

That's where Doan discovered the world of community gaming where he could compete against others online. It was the start of a serious addiction.

"Instead of studying, I was playing all day long," admitted Doan.

Doan would get home from class at 4 p.m. then game until dinnertime. After his newlywed-wife would go to bed at 9 p.m., he'd be back in front of the computer until 4 a.m. the next day. After sleeping just a few hours, the cycle would repeat.

"I'm talking right now about it, and I'm getting chills down my spine because I get so excited about talking about the gaming aspect," Doan said.

Doan didn't realize what was going on inside his head. The constant exposure to violent video games was causing cortisol and adrenaline to build up and cook in his brain until the concoction would blow.

"I'd unleash this rage on my wife," said Doan shamefully. "I'd be like, ARRR! It was crazy, but I loved getting mad because it was an outlet for all the stuff that was pent up while I was playing."

His wife left him with their two young children and moved across the country. Doan became suicidal. While they eventually reconciled, he continued to game.

Photos bring back painful memories. In one picture, he's seen holding his infant son; a computer monitor sits in the background.

He remembers once that his wife interrupted a game of Ultima.

"I had to kiss him (my son), so it was like a half-cocked kiss," said Doan. "My eyes were kind of irritated. I didn't even take time to turn around completely to pose (with) him."

It wasn't until the gaming caused Carpal Tunnel Syndrome in his right hand and arm and nearly ended his career as an eye surgeon that Doan finally went cold turkey.

He entered a faith-based 12-step program and then started to intensely research video game addiction.

He had since written a book, entitled Hooked on Games, and now speaks to parents and kids about the science and warning signs of video game addiction.

"You can say I'm a zealot about this addiction," said Doan. "I recognize it's a real thing, (and) I don't want other people to suffer."

Doan will be in our area this Sunday, May 19, to speak to both parents and teens about video game and social media addiction.

The event is open to the public. Parents are encouraged to attend with their kids.

If you're wondering if you or your child is dangerously addicted to video gaming, start by taking this 11-question survey.

Doan's speaking event:

"Doped up on Media"
Where: Sunset Presbyterian Church, 14986 NW Cornell Rd., Portland
When: Sunday, May 19; 7-8:30 p.m.