Video games have come a long way since their inception in the late 1970s. Originally arcade machines, video games now encompass handheld devices such as cell phones and portable gaming consoles. What was once a pastime enjoyed primarily by preteens and young adults has become ubiquitous, with people of all ages playing video games for hours on end.
While there are many benefits to playing video games, such as relieving boredom or providing an escape from reality, there is also the potential for video game addiction.
In this blog post, we will discuss what video game addiction is, and we will also provide some tips on how to overcome it.
What is Video Game Addiction?
Video game addiction is a condition that is characterized by excessive or uncontrollable involvement in video games. People addicted to video games will often spend hours playing video games, and they may feel like they can’t control how much time they spend doing this.
A video game addiction is characterized by gaming to the point where it causes problems in a person’s life. Video game addiction can negatively affect a person’s life, such as social isolation, poor performance at work or school, and health issues.
While video game addiction is not yet fully recognized as a unique mental health disorder, it is often considered internet addiction or computer addiction. And the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) recognizes internet gaming addiction as a disorder, a condition needing further research.
The DSM-5 also includes warning signs of problematic gaming. These signs can be particularly helpful for parents, as video games primarily target teenagers and children.
At What Point Does Gaming Become Video Game Addiction?
It’s often harder to notice problems in yourself than those around you. If others have expressed they think you are gaming too much, it might be time to consider if that is true. Here are a few questions you can ask yourself:
- Do you spend more time playing video games than interacting with other people?
- Does video gaming get in the way of your life, such as your job, relationships, or schooling?
- Do you feel you can’t control how much time you spend playing video games?
- Are you gaming more because you feel like you have to, and not as much because you love to?
- Are you using video gaming to avoid addressing problems, such as sadness or depression?
If video game addiction is not a concern for yourself but your child, you can still apply some of these questions. However, you mostly want to observe how well they are doing with friends and school.
If they have a good relationship with you or with friends and maintain good grades, it’s likely not a video game addiction – let alone a problem. Still, these are things you can keep an eye on if your child is keen on video gaming.
The Signs of Video Game Addiction
If you’re pretty sure that video gaming has reached a problematic point for yourself, your child, or a loved one, there are some more specific signs you can look for.
According to the DSM-5, a diagnosis of internet gaming disorder requires significant impairment or distress in several areas of a person’s life. They must also experience five or more of these signs within one year. The following are warning signs of video game addiction.
- Preoccupation with video games; think about gaming a lot of time.
- Withdrawal symptoms when games are taken away; feeling anxious, sad, or irritable
- Unable to quit or play less
- Increased tolerance; needing to play more to feel as good
- Playing games to ease or ignore bad feelings or moods
- Loss of interest in other activities
- Lying to others about time spent gaming
- Continue to play games despite problems at school, work, or home and despite losing or risk of losing a job or a relationship.
The Negative Impact of Video Game Addiction
While it can be challenging to find the line between video game addiction and enthusiasm – especially with a lack of an official DSM-5 classification – the best thing you can do is pay attention to its impact on your or your child’s life.
Another important thing to note is that video game addiction is more common in boys and men compared to girls and women. The younger a child is, the more likely they will develop dependence-like behaviors. And the percentage of gamers who meet the proposed criteria for addiction is small – between 1 and 9 percent.
Regardless of who it impacts and to what degree, there are several negative consequences excessive gaming can have on a person’s life, such as:
- Reduced time spent on other activities, such as socializing or studying; decreased academic performance and productivity
- Problems at work or school due to video game addiction
- Social isolation and problems with relationships
Addiction aside, there are known harmful effects linked to video game use in general, including:
- Reduced pro-social behaviors during social interactions
- Increase in aggressive behaviors and thoughts (particularly for children under 10); If you are a parent who is worried about video gaming regardless of addiction concerns, for the time being, ensure your child is only playing age-appropriate games.
- Increased metabolic rate
- Increased risk of musculoskeletal disorders (of upper extremities) and light-induced seizures
Can You Overcome Video Game Addiction?
Given the emotional attachment to gaming and the amount of time spent playing, the signs and effects demonstrate it is similar to other addictions. Regardless of video game addiction not being classified as an official disorder, it can still significantly disrupt a person’s life.
That said, the most important thing is to catch it if it starts causing problems. Video game addiction can be difficult to overcome, but it is possible.
Treatment for Video Game Addiction
Here are a few techniques and options to consider for treatment:
Keep an eye on time spent playing video games
One helpful place to start is to keep the gaming under control. Both adults and children can benefit from:
- Keeping gadgets out of the bedroom to avoid playing into the night.
- Setting time limits and sticking to them.
- Doing other activities every day – especially something involving exercise. This will also help with the health risk component of sitting and playing for long periods.
Join a support group
You might consider joining a support group where members discuss and share their experiences. Support groups help prevent people from feeling alone in this struggle.
Seek professional help
Seeking the guidance of a qualified therapist or counselor can help you get to the root cause of your video game addiction, as well as provide tools that will help you overcome it.
Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) is one helpful therapy type that can help alter one’s thoughts about gaming to change their gaming behaviors.
If you are the parent of a video gamer and concerned about your child, therapy can also help show you how to set limits and say no. Reach out to your child’s doctor or pediatrician if things are getting out of hand. Research suggests that being a part of your child’s treatment can make it work better.
Final Thoughts on Overcoming Video Game Addiction
Though video game addiction is real and has negative consequences, it can be overcome with treatment. Treatment options such as limiting video game time, joining a support group, or seeking professional help are available to those who need them. With the right tools and determination, video game addiction does not have to control your life or the life of your child.