What is Video Game Addiction?
Video game addiction or “gaming disorder”, as it’s sometimes called, is a preoccupation that may be harmful to adults and teens. While there is some controversy in the medical field over whether video games can lead to an addictive disorder, it’s clear that some people can develop an unhealthy fixation on them. This fixation on gaming can be detrimental to one’s success and ability to follow through on obligations.
Video games have been a popular activity for several decades. However, medical evidence that excessive gaming can be harmful is still in short supply. It’s suspected that winning video games spurs the release of hormones into the brain. This chemical provides benefits including a boost to energy levels and mood.
Video games aren’t addictive to everyone. Many people are able to enjoy video games without becoming fixated on them. However, others may become addicted to the rush that video games provide, often at the expense of their daily responsibilities and relationships. When an excessive amount of time is spent playing video games, it can be harmful to one’s mental and physical health. Thankfully, video game addiction is both preventable and treatable.
Signs of Video Game Addiction
If you think that you or a loved one may be addicted to video games, there are multiple signs of video game addiction that you can look out for. It can be difficult to recognize video games addiction in oneself, often making the intervention of loved ones necessary for recovery. Parents of children with a strong interest in video games should keep an eye out for these signs to ensure that it doesn’t become an addiction.
Common signs of video game addiction include:
- Constantly thinking about gaming, even when you’re not actively playing video games
- Gradually needing to spend more and more time gaming to gain the same level of happiness or enjoyment
- Feeling down or low when you’re unable to play video games
- Using gaming as a way to cope with stress and other negative emotions
- Feeling unable to cut down on gaming time or quit gaming altogether
- Losing interest and/or a desire to do other activities that you used to enjoy
- Having trouble at school, work, or home due to gaming
- Continuing to play video games at the same frequency despite the issues that it causes
- Lying to people in your life about the amount of time that you spend playing video games
How is Video Game Addiction Treated?
Therapy is one of the most effective treatment strategies for video game addiction. Through therapy, people with a gaming addiction can reflect on their fixation and learn strategies to abate its symptoms.
Cognitive behavioral therapy is one method of therapy that can be effective in the treatment of video game addiction. This therapy method focuses on identifying negative behaviors and replacing them with healthier, more productive ones. People in cognitive behavioral therapy for video game addiction can learn to identify the thoughts that lead to excessive gaming and adapt their behaviors for a better outcome.
In the case of video game addiction in children, parents can talk to the child’s pediatrician for a referral to a therapist. Parents may also need to limit the amount of time that their children spend playing video games to address the issue.
Preventing a video game addiction before it develops can eliminate the need for treatment. Try setting time limits on gaming and ensure that you engage in other activities throughout the day. Additionally, avoid playing video games late at night so that it doesn’t interfere with your sleep schedule. Exercising every day may also help prevent a gaming addiction and reduce the negative effects of being seated for long periods while you play video games.
WHEN TO SEE A MENTAL HEALTH PROFESSIONAL
Mental health issues are real, common, and treatable. According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) 1 in 5 adults experience mental illness and 20% of those are considered serious. 17% of 6-17 year olds experience a mental health disorder. So the first thing to remember is this: You are not alone.
If you feel that you are suffering from a mental illness, and particularly if those issues are preventing you from living life to the full or feeling yourself, you may want to consider professional help which can make an enormous difference.
And to be clear, you don't need to be going through a crisis in order to justify getting help. In fact, it can be advantageous from a treatment perspective to identify and deal with issues early and before they have a major impact on your life. Either way you should feel encouraged and able to seek help however you are feeling.
Mental health professionals such as licensed therapist can help in a range of ways including:
- Help you identify where, when, and how issues arise
- Develop coping strategies for specific symptoms and issues
- Encourage resilience and self-management
- Identify and change negative behaviors
- Identify and encourage positive behaviors
- Heal pain from past trauma
- Figure out goals and waypoints
- Build self-confidence
Treatment for mental health issues, and psychotherapy (sometimes known as 'talk therapy') in particular, frequently helps people to feel better, manage, and even get rid of their symptoms. For example, did you know that over 80% of people treated for depression materially improve? Or that treatment for panic disorder has a 90% success rate?
Other treatment options include medication which, in some cases, can be highly effective when administered in combination with psychotherapy.
So what is psychotherapy? It involves talking about your problems and concerns with a mental health professional. It can take lots of forms, including individual, group, couples and family sessions. Often, people see their therapists once a week for 50 minutes to start with and then reducing frequency as time goes on and issues subside. Treatment can be as short as a few weeks or as long as a few years depending on your particular situation and response.
Never think that getting help is a sign of weakness. It isn't. In fact, it can be a sign of strength and maturity to take the steps necessary to becoming you again and getting your life back on track.
WHEN TO GET EMERGENCY HELP
Are you in distress? If so, or if you think that you may hurt yourself or attempt suicide, call 911 or your local emergency number immediately.
Also consider these options if you're having suicidal thoughts:
- Call your mental health specialist.
- Call a suicide hotline number — in the U.S., call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (1-800-273-8255).
- Seek help from your primary doctor or other health care provider.
- Reach out to a close friend or loved one.
- Contact a minister, spiritual leader or someone else in your faith community.
If a loved one or friend is in danger of attempting suicide or has made an attempt:
- Make sure someone stays with that person.
- Call 911 or your local emergency number immediately.
- Or, if you can do so safely, take the person to the nearest hospital emergency room.