What Is Failure To Launch?

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In today’s fast pace, media driven world, expectations for what it means to be an adult male can be both confusing, as well as challenging. Whether it’s maintaining a steady job, completing a college degree, or simply accomplishing life goals, the stress young men face may become overwhelming. This stress can lead to life issues such as depression, isolation, and an overall feeling of being stuck. Addiction may also rear its ugly head in the form of drugs, alcohol, food, internet pornography, or even video games. What has come to be known as Failure to Launch Syndrome describes behavioral and mental health issues holding many young men back from making the full-fledged passage into adulthood.

How Addictive Technology Leads to Failure to Launch

Generation X, Millennials and Generation Z’ers were born into the technological age with digital advancements happening faster than ever. Instant gratification of technology is in the palm of human hands with many variations of devices to fit all levels of lifestyle, convenience and distraction.

Concern for screen time has reached professional medical organizations to deem gaming an addictive behavior disorder. A study performed by the Kurihama Medical and Addiction Centre saw 269 patients for internet addiction. 241 of those patients had a primary addiction to a gaming disorder. (Humphreys). Many are attempting to oppose these findings and also the World Health Organization’s inclusion of gaming addiction as a behavior disorder. Christopher J. Ferguson’s write up, Debunking the 6 biggest myths about ‘technology addiction’, makes a case that,“Technology is not a drug”. (Ferguson) 

In contrast the article immediately points to the brain’s response to technology as an increase in dopamine. Levels of dopamine are then compared to common addictive drugs such as; methamphetamine and cocaine use, which increase dopamine at a significantly higher level. The discussion moves forward to point to those who have a gaming disorder to also have underlying mental health issues like depression. It’s here where Ferguson discusses a case for dual diagnosis, however neglects to observe this medical designation. Dual diagnosis is also known as a co-occurring disorder and are well documented within addiction treatment. Simultaneous mental illness along with an issue around substance abuse is reserved for co-occurring disorder. (“Dual Diagnosis.”) Substances are used in these instances as an escape or self-medication from the problems created by the mental illness. Gaming or over use of technology creates that same stimuli and diversion from the actual underlying issues, making the case for gaming and technology as an addiction.

Linking Substance Abuse and Failure To Launch

Illicit drug use is preventing growth in young adults. Formative years to success and maturation are towards the end of high school. Data accumulated by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, SAMHSA, shows the association between high school students, dropouts and substance abuse.

12th grade aged students from 2002-2014 statistics
(generally 16-18 years old)


of 12th grade aged DROPOUTS



of 12th grade aged STUDENTS  

Engaged in the use of one or more of the following substances:

  • Cocaine
  • Prescription Drugs (Non-Medically Advised)
  • Heroin
  • Hallucinogens (LSD, Mushrooms, Peyote, Ketamine, PCP, DMT)
  • Crack
  • Inhalants (Aerosol, Gas, Solvent, Nitrite)
  • Marijuana

Dropout rates in conjunction with substance abuse show the importance of young adult sobriety to transitioning into productive members of society while entering adulthood.

Transitioning from high school to college or workplace

Motivating factors in life include the rewarding sense of success through responsibilities. An Economic News Release by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics further details the importance of completing high school to continue the progression into vicenarian ages (20-29).

Graduate and recent dropout workplace participation statistics
(16-24 years old)


of recent young adult HIGH SCHOOL DROPOUTS were working



of non-college young adult HIGH SCHOOL GRADUATES were working

Stress on Parents Related to Failure to Launch

Family dynamics with a young male who is struggling to advance in life place a mental and financial burden on parents. Frustrations can build watching this young man overusing technology and video games, abusing substances and refusing to grow into a responsible adult.

Stimulation and Debilitation

Dopamine levels are increased through the use of technology, similar to drugs, hence are utilized as an escape from the debilitating mental illness. This is true with all types of compulsive activities; gambling, eating, pornography and sex. While technology may not be an injectible or ingestible drug, it is prone to overuse and used as avoidance of underlying issues. “Technology can have a large impact on users’ mental and physical health. Being overly connected can cause psychological issues such as distraction, narcissism, expectation of instant gratification, and even depression. Beside affecting users’ mental health, use of technology can also have negative repercussions on physical health.” (“Health and Technology”)

The Evolution of Technology

Habitual technology usage didn’t happen overnight. A slow evolution brought together technologies that have shaped the modern world. Looking at this ongoing development of tech, allows for a better understanding of how technology and gaming has become addictive. With television coming in the early part of the 20th century, Physicist William Higinbotham created the first ever video game, Tennis for Two in 1958. (Tretkoff) Games quickly evolved to computers, as Stephen Russell at MIT developed Spacewar!, to run on a PDP-1 computer, a system that was as large as a car. (Jesper Juul) Visual graphic computing was introduced with the first cathode ray tube monitor released in 1973 with the Xerox Alto. Allowing users to point and click was revolutionary to the computer experience as “The Alto was the first system to bring together all of the components of the modern Graphical User Interface”. (Computer History) Primitive as it was, the Milton Bradley Microvision made video games portable with cartridges available to alternate game play and titles. (Edwards) Shortly thereafter communication becomes wireless and available on the go with Motorola launching the first cellular phone in 1983. (Gibson) Decade long breakthroughs continue to create milestones in technology as 1994 introduces the first touchscreen cell phone, the Simon, created by IBM. (Jackson) Microsoft upped the game from early attempts by Linus, Palm Computing and Apple to develop useful digital note taking devices and coined the term “Tablet PC” in 2000 with scaled Windows XP capabilities later coming in 2002. (Bort) 

From 2002 to modern day, all of these systems have evolved into smaller and better versions of their predecessors. Graphics have intensified, battery life has drastically improved and user interaction is at an all-time high. Studies show that, “3.26 billion people use social media on mobile devices in January 2019, with a growth of 297 million new users representing a year-on-year increase of more than 10 percent.” (Underwood) Through the use of smart applications utilizing user data and artificial intelligence to display relative content, devices know more about human behavior than ever. Collective data throughout technology devices, some even synched with others, gives the power of technology an upper hand on what can trigger a brain’s response to the content that is delivered. Commonly known as “click-bait”, users of social media platforms and popular video sites have expressed trance-like times where hours are lost in a proverbial rabbit hole of content. “We have more access to information than ever before, but we can easily overburden our brains. One search leads to hundreds, thousands of possibilities…you have more tabs open than can fit in your browser, and are more confused and overwhelmed than when you typed in that first search. Information overloaded, yet again.” (GradProSkills)

When Fantasy Becomes Reality

Similar to the hours lost to social media apps and binge watching, video games have integrated user interaction to provide a tailored experience. Online gaming includes people from all over the planet into a virtual world filled with variations of distracting content. From avatars to character development to alternate storylines, these simulations are known to take form in actual life. Subcultures like cosplay, video game streaming, Dungeons and Dragons and larping, commonly use subjects from video games to portray and play out fantasy driven events. Alternate reality can become a cause for concern as it has been found in some cases that individuals are known to self-identify with character traits from the game being played, “Video game identification, thus, is considered as a kind of altered self-experience. In Study 1 (N = 61), participants either played a first-person shooter game or a racing game. Subsequently, they performed an Implicit Association Test (IAT) designed to detect cognitive associations between character-related concepts and players’ self. Findings indicate a stronger automatic association of military-related concepts to shooter players’ self and a stronger association of racing-related concepts to racing game players’ self.” (Klimmt)

Changing These Negative Habits

It’s time to be more aware and conscious of the effects that addictive technology has on all generations going forward. All age groups are at risk to overuse computers, tablets, cell phones and video game systems. Neglecting responsibilities to health, work, family and friends is a major concern to not only productivity but also to personal growth. Investing time and energy to these distracting devices continues to be an issue throughout the world. 

Prescott House’s extended care program helps reintegrate and educate men with life skills necessary to shape their new lives gained from recovery. These tools prepare men to be more accountable and present in life for both themselves and for their families.


Bort, Julie. “The History Of The Tablet, An Idea Steve Jobs Stole And Turned Into A Game-Changer.” Business Insider. 2 June 2013. Web. 20 November 2019.

Computer History. “Xerox Alto – Complete History of the Xerox Alto Computer. Computer History. Web. 20 November 2019.

“Dual Diagnosis.” NAMI. August 2017. Web. 23 November 2019.

Edwards, Benj. “30 Years of Handheld Game Systems.” PCWorld. 6 Dec. 2009. Web. 20 November 2019.

Gibson, William E. “The First Cell Phone Call Was Made 45 Years Ago.” AARP. 3 Apr. 2018, Web. 20 November 2019.

GradProSkills. “Getting Lost in The Internet Vortex.” Getting Lost in The Internet Vortex, 24 July 2015. Web. 23 November 2019.

“Health and Technology.” Digital Responsibility. Web. 23 November 2019.

Humphreys, Gary “Sharpening the Focus on Gaming Disorder.” World Health Organization. 13 June 2019. Web. 20 November 2019.

Jackson, Kevin. “A Brief History of the Smartphone.” Science Node. Web. 20 November 2019.

Jesper Juul. “A History of the Computer Game.” Jesper Juul. Web. 20 November 2019.

Klimmt, Christoph, et al. “Identification With Video Game Characters as Automatic Shift of Self-Perceptions.” American Psychological Association. 15 December 2010. Web. 23 November 2019.

Tice, Peter. “Substance Use among 12th Grade Aged Youths, By Dropout Status.” SAMHSA. 15 August 2017. Web. 16 December 2019.

Tretkoff, Ernie. “October 1958: Physicist Invents First Video Game.” American Physical Society. Web. 20 November 2019.
Underwood, Lauren, et al. “Digital 2019: Global Internet Use Accelerates.” We Are Social. 30 Jan. 2019. Web. 23 November 2019.

Prescott House has developed programs specifically to restore men into productive members of society. This structured therapeutic environment allows men to confront the issues they are facing in a positive manner. Whether it be trauma-based, addiction related or

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