In this article we will look at:
What is gaming addiction?
What are the signs and symptoms of gaming addiction?
What causes gaming addiction?
Which types of treatment for gaming addiction are available?
Signs to watch out for that you may have an addiction to gaming
Gaming and video games have actually been a part of our lives for over 30 years. However, the graphics and complexity of the games available today is like night and day compared to the games I grew up with the 1980s. Also a big difference found in contemporary games is the ability to communicate with people anywhere in the world using inbuilt messenger or texting. Indeed except for Angry birds on your Smartphone or similar games, many video game use messaging as a part of the interactive play which is integral to games. You play with a few or even dozens of other people.
Gaming has really moved and changed in the last years and even though enjoying gaming is in most cases simply a wonderful fun hobby or pastime, you may feel that your usage of video games has become problematic. Perhaps you may feel that you are even addicted to games.
What are the signs to watch out for that you may have a gaming addiction?
Perhaps you are reading this because you’d like to know about the symptoms of being addicted to games. Perhaps you are looking for help or treatment for addiction to video games. Maybe you are concerned about which warning signs to look for, in case you have a gaming addiction or that somebody who is close to you, does. Indeed the World Health organization has added gaming disorder to their medical reference book, International Clarification of Diseases. However, the American Psychiatry Association manual, the DSM -5 has, as yet, not is listed video game addiction. Whether gaming addiction is recognised or not does not detract from feelings of compulsion you may experience.
As a guide, if you have five or more of the following signs, in a period of one year, it may be a concern that you are addicted to games.
Thinking often about gaming. Spending a lot of time being preoccupied with video gaming. Finding it in your thoughts frequently it in your thoughts.
Feeling down sad or bad if you can’t play or prevented from playing games.
You find you need to spend increasing amounts of time playing in order to feel satisfaction.
Finding it difficult to stop playing or play less than you normally do.
Having less interest in other interests that you would normally enjoy.
Experiencing issues or problems at school, work or at home because of your gaming habit.
Continuing to play even with these above concerns or considerations in mind.
Forming habits of dishonesty or lying to people. Doing so in order to spend more time gaming.
Using gaming or video games as a way to ease negative feelings, a bad mood or to self medicate.
Gaming addiction can affect people at any age
It’s true that not everybody who loves gaming will have a problem with it and one shouldn’t immediately label yourself as an addict just because you find that your gaming is a little bit more than you might want to. Gaming addiction can affect people at any age. It can affect men as well as women, boys and girls. You might just simply want to ask yourself the question, “do I feel that video gaming is getting way of my enjoying life as I’d like to?” Is gaming holding you back from living life to the full? Have you perhaps gone beyond simple enjoyment of playing as a hobby and it’s become now more of something you feel compelled to do?
You may wish to set boundaries around your gaming usage. You may feel it’s hard to do so. However this is especially important if your use video games is late at night and then you often find it hard to fall asleep.
However, as annoyed as you may be by it, as good sign may be when other people around you suggest that you’re playing games too much. Rather than seeing this as wanting to ruin your fun and enjoyment, it may be a useful guide that perhaps something needs to be looked at.
Are you a parent who’s concerned about your child’s usage of video games? It might be affecting their sleep patterns and ability to concentrate or work at school or they are increasingly isolating themselves from friends and peers.
Video gaming health risks or health concerns
Compulsive use of video games may have a negative effect on your life, health or relationships. For one thing sitting for a long time will also result in doing exercise. You may also be overeating or eating too many sugary or fatty snacks whilst gaming. Overeating could be linked to gaming especially if you’re using gaming as a way to deal with negative emotions or to avoid problems or situations in your life which you do not wish to face.
Here are a few key concerns in particular for younger people
- Lack of social engagement and friendships. Today you can interact with other people online whilst gaming. However, sometimes that environment may mean that you’re not interacting with friends or peers in a real world setting. This is likely to lead to feeling isolated or lonely.
- A too sedentary lifestyle. Sitting in front of a computer or game box or device for a long time can take toll on your body. Physical exercises is of course very important and video gaming has already led to concerns about poor posture, gaining weight and an increase in conditions such as type 2 diabetes.
- Problems of concentration. Concerns have been raised about the fast paced action of video games and rapid movements. That these can contribute to concentration abilities being reduced. Children who spends a lot of time playing video games may be also therefore less interested in reading books or other activities or hobbies, which do require longer concentration.
- Avoiding useful or productive activities. This is a particular concern for adolescents who may spend too much time playing video games. That can be a way to avoid potentially painful or emotionally awkward situations. It’s easier to play games at home rather than fear rejection or confrontation with peers or friends. Gaming can become a way to escape. In some cases gaming can inhibit developmental stages for adolescents or teens.
- Increased violence or aggressive behaviour. Often the media portrays video games as responsible for increased crimes. Whether this is true or not, research has pointed to some increased anger or aggressive behaviour in teens who overuse video games or become isolated from peers.
- Repetitive stress injuries. Much has been published about the risks of video gaming, in particular concerns that some flicking graphics lights and bright colours could potentially trigger epileptic seizures in some people. There’s also some evidence that compulsively playing video games can lead to repetitive stress injuries of the wrists or hands.
Are there different types of video game addiction?
It has been suggested that there are two main types of video game addiction and these match two types of games that you might play. Many video games are designed to be played by a single player and involve a clear goal or way to win that game. This might encourage a player becoming addicted since these games are often related to completing that mission or beating a high score or a preset standard score.
A second type of video game addiction may be associated with online multiplayer video games. These types of games when played with other people can be especially addictive and you can feel compelled to play them. This is since they often appear as if they have no ending. You therefore feel compelled to keep playing as long as possible. The addiction can be created because, in the moment, there is a temporary high or good feeling from the social interaction with other people. There is also the seductive feeling that very soon you might win. This is perhaps comparable to playing a slot machine in a gambling or casino establishment. Another factor is also the building of temporary relationships with other online pairs. This can be an enjoyable escape from reality.
Which are the most addictive video games?
As mentioned previously, some video games are different from others. The most addictive video games can be ones where you have an opportunity to act out or take on a character that you would not normally have in the real world. This might be because it’s simply not a part of your experience or that it may even be something which ordinarily would feel unacceptable to do so. In a sense, you can take on an alternative personality allowing you to feel or experience things you wouldn’t normally.
This capacity for games to allow you to be someone different can then become very obsessive and compulsive. Experts consider many role-playing games to be more addictive than others.
Some of the most addictive games are:
Fortnite Battle Royale
Call of Duty
World of Warcraft
As mentioned already, some of the most difficult or addictive games are those that involve many players online. These can really involve a lot of dedication, and you become engrossed in the ongoing story. You may also feel that the game never quite finishes since the story evolves with each player. There is an encouragement to take turns and keep the story going.
However, some other less intense games, for example, Solitaire or Angry Birds can also become addictive. This is because they can be a way to distract you from other aspects of life. They might be just something to do whilst commuting or during downtime. Note if you are playing to avoid people, feelings or situations.
What causes an addiction to video games?
It’s often hard to explain why we get addicted to some things rather than other things. It could be that some video games are addictive since they are in fact designed to be that way. The gaming designers wish you to be more involved and more engrossed in their game. Therefore they make games more exciting and more challenging. Of course companies wish to make higher profits from higher sales of the games. They keep you coming back, wanting more. So the success of the video game producers can also mean a more addictive game for you, the video game player.
Just like anything that one might become addicted to or feel compulsive behaviour around, video gaming may lead to higher levels of the so-called happy chemical known as dopamine. Dopamine is released when you play a video game. Dopamine is released whenever you take part in something that feels pleasurable, which can include eating, or pastimes such as watching or playing sports. It’s a form of reward system which the brain gives in order to regulate and help with memory and solving problems. This could mean that you can begin to expect a greater feeling of dopamine each time you play a video game.
Research has shown that with very high levels of dopamine, some people have a greater disposition to develop an addiction than others might. This is since the brain is already associating gaming with that pleasurable and enjoyable dopamine feeling and therefore it can feel harder to stop and break out of this addictive cycle without professional help.
Video game addiction and anxiety and depression
Often gaming addiction may come along with other concerns such as anxiety or depression. Have you a concern that you are suffering from anxiety or depression? You may find that gaming is a way to self medicate for these other mental health concerns. If you regularly experience negative thoughts or feelings, video games may be a way to escape them or turn them off. Remember that dopamine gives you a good feeling that helps you feel good in the moment. However, of course, as soon as you stop gaming, you may feel a real sense of emptiness or experience that anxiety again. This is because you only escaped the problem or feeling temporarily.
What are different types of treatment for gaming addiction?
There are several types of therapy that are on offer to help you reduce your gaming or video gaming addiction.
Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT). This is a very proactive process where, with a CBT therapist, you will look at and proactively address your underlying reasons and patterns which contribute to feeling addicted to games. You feel compelled to play video games. A CBT therapist will look at your emotions, thoughts and behaviours. They will encourage you, through different exercises, to introduce changes to behaviour, by changing your thoughts too. Some thoughts may be to do with other areas of your life, seemingly unconnected with video gaming. Important to address wince they may be areas that you are using video gaming in order to deal with. These could be difficulties at work, school, general boredom, relationship problems, or feelings of anxiety or depression.
Family therapy. Sometimes gaming, especially if it’s affecting teens or adolescents, may be a systemic challenge for the whole family. The immediate symptoms of gaming addiction may be a sign of a wider concern about the relationships between different family members. In some cases if the whole home and family unit addresses the issue, everyone can help and address other issues that are a concern.
If you’re living with a partner and concerned about their use of video games, couples therapy may also be an option. It can be helpful so that you can deal together with the issue. This will mean that you’ll also be able to discuss and talk through your own thoughts and feelings and concerns about your partner’s behaviour or addictive patterns.
Self-help and group therapy. There are many types of group therapy including 12 step group therapy, that you may find helpful for gaming addiction. A group setting is powerful because then you more easily see that you are not alone. You can see that often the patterns you are experiencing that feel very personal are in fact very universal and shared by others too. A group can also help create a supportive network. This enables the building of positive and reinforcing behaviours. You may learn from others new effective emotional ways to control anxiety, stress or anything else that is on your mind.
Inpatient treatment. For some people that find it hard or feel very out of control with their addiction, there are inpatient addiction rehabilitation or rehab centres available. This would be a stay of a week or so and include some intensive therapy which may also look at other conditions such as anxiety, stress or depression, which may be important. This may also be a good way to initiate and start a new path or chapter of good health and wellbeing.
Clinical hypnotherapy. I help people with gaming addiction using clinical hypnotherapy in London. I also use other treatment options as well. These include NLP (Neuro-linguistic programming) and also CBT, which we have previously mentioned. Clinical hypnotherapy works by looking at the underlying drives and causes of your addictive or compulsive patterns around video gaming. Using the power of hypnosis, we will look at images, thoughts, behaviours, and emotions that may be driving or compelling thoughts, behaviours, and emotions that are contributing to your desire to play video games. Through hypnotherapy you will find that you will also improve other areas of your life. These may include confidence and also your ability to establish goals too. Clinical hypnotherapy is also very relaxing. If you’re using video games late at night in order to fall asleep or relax after a long day, hypnotherapy can help you relax and feel calm as well.
If you’re concerned about your video gaming habits and you feel you may have a video game addiction, please get in touch to discuss further and I can explain how I use clinical hypnotherapy to help people reduce and overcome their video gaming compulsion or habit.