Many things are blamed on video games these days. Whenever a child performs poorly at school or shows violent or rebellious tendencies, it’s because of video games. However, even though video games can be good for mental development and relaxation, they pose some real threats, and video game addiction is one of them. But what is it, and how can we identify and recover from it?
Video game addiction happens when a person gets so consumed by video games that they neglect their real-life responsibilities. Game developers try to make games addictive because it makes business sense. It is possible to overcome video game addiction with determination and maybe professional help.
Scientific studies about video game addiction are still in their early stages, so we still don’t know a lot. Though the World Health Organization lists video game addiction as an official disorder (Gaming Disorder), many psychological organizations still don’t. Let’s analyze this disorder and find its causes, symptoms, effects, and solutions.
What Is Video Game Addiction?
According to the World Health Organization, the ICD-11 (International Classification of Diseases) defines gaming disorder as a “pattern of gaming behavior characterized by impaired control over gaming.” It happens when a person gives increasing priority to gaming over other activities and interests and escalation of gaming despite negative consequences.
In other words, video game addiction is when someone becomes so obsessed with gaming that they prioritize it over other activities, even things they used to enjoy. Even if the person suffers negative consequences because of their gaming, they will continue to dedicate more time to it than other activities.
Signs Of Video Game Addiction
Remember that only a certified psychologist or other professional can formally diagnose video game addiction; however, it’s possible to draw some conclusions by looking at a few basic behavior patterns.
According to the DSM-5, a person who’s addicted to video games will have five or more of the following signs over one year:
- Thinking about gaming constantly or nearly constantly.
- Feeling bad or deprived when you cannot play.
- Having to increase the amount of time playing to feel good.
- Being unable to quit playing or play less often.
- Not having an interest in activities that they used to enjoy.
- Having problems at home, school, or work that are linked directly to the amount of time spent playing.
- Playing consistently despite these problems.
- Lying blatantly about the amount of time they spend playing.
- Turning to gaming to improve their mood.
Is Everyone Who Shows These Signs Addicted To Gaming?
Not everyone who shows these signs are addicted to gaming. Some people are simply enthusiastic about video games. It’s a recognized sport these days, and just like anyone can become enthusiastic or even obsessed over sports like football or baseball, people can get very excited about video games. That’s not necessarily a sign of addiction.
Gaming disorder is very uncommon, and research suggests it affects as few as 3% to 4% of gamers. As mentioned, five or more of the above signs should be present for one year or more before you can suspect video game addiction.
What Causes Video Game Addiction?
Video game studios want to make their games addictive, and they want people to return to their games repeatedly because that’s a profitable business model.
We can see that in games like EA’s FIFA, which releases a new edition every year, and players must buy each new one as it’s released. But it’s also apparent in games like Fortnite, which is free to play but benefits those who pay for extra features. However, addiction isn’t limited to these A-list titles; small mobile games like Candy Crush are just as addictive and make money from that fact.
The game developers achieve this on two levels:
Games cause our brains to release dopamine. It’s a neurotransmitter that lets us feel pleasure, satisfaction, and motivation, and our brains release it whenever we’ve accomplished something as a “reward.”
Video games give us small accomplishments with little or no real-world relevance, but our brains still see them as achievements, rewarding us with dopamine. The more dopamine we receive, the more we want, which makes us want to play the game more and more to get our dopamine “fix.”
Games are immersive and aim to become even more immersive in the future with VR and AR. This creates a world we can escape to so we can get away from the problems and challenges we’re facing in the real world.
This is a tempting alternative for people who suffer from depression, anxiety, stress, or hopelessness. To make matters worse, these immersive worlds are designed to make us forget about time. We don’t notice how much time we spend playing games anymore since that world is the only one that has existed in our minds for a while.
The point is that video games are addictive by nature because they tap into the brain’s dopamine response, but there’s more to it than that – games offer an escape. Someone who feels overwhelmed or hopeless may choose that escape repeatedly, which makes the dopamine addiction kick in.
How To Overcome Video Game Addiction
Overcoming video game addiction is like overcoming any type of addiction, but generally without the physiological withdrawal effects of chemical drugs. That doesn’t mean there are no withdrawal effects, though, since many withdrawal symptoms are mental rather than physical, but it is possible to overcome the addiction.
The following methods can help anyone to overcome video game addiction:
Consult A Professional
Many psychiatric clinics or specialists can help you to overcome the addiction, cope with the withdrawal symptoms, and deal with any underlying problems that might have caused it. It’s always best to speak with someone trained to help a person with video game addiction.
An organization called Game Quitters specializes in this type of treatment and trains coaches to help people anywhere in the world.
Go “Cold Turkey”
This term refers to the process of removing the thing you are addicted to entirely. It’s usually a very intense and drastic step and requires a sincere commitment, but it can be the most effective (and fastest) way to overcome an addiction.
The process eradicates the dopamine high and restores the brain’s normal dopamine levels (called a “dopamine detox”). However, it’s still important to speak to a professional psychiatrist to confirm that this is the best option for you since it does not necessarily deal with any underlying problems that caused the addiction in the first place.
Set A Strict Gaming Time Limit
If you’re not going cold turkey, or once you’re done with the process, set strict time limits for gaming and enforce them. Someone must hold the person accountable. Limit game time to 30 minutes or an hour and stick to that time limit (and set the alarm if necessary).
Remove Gaming Devices From Easily Accessible Areas
That’s not always easy, especially for those who game on their smartphones or computers that they might also have to use for work or school, but try to do it as much as possible.
Ask Your Friends And Family To Help You
Most often, they will be more than willing to help you get your life back in order. They can hold you accountable and even assist with removing the gaming devices when game time is up.
The Withdrawal Symptoms Of Video Game Addiction
According to the DSM-5, withdrawal symptoms include irritability, anxiety, sadness, boredom, and moodiness. Some have claimed physiological symptoms, but those are inconclusive and likely a side-effect of the emotional withdrawal symptoms.
The point is that the withdrawal symptoms aren’t tough to deal with, and they get increasingly lighter as you abstain from gaming for extended periods.
Video game addiction is a genuine threat in our modern world. People have lost everything because of this addiction, making it almost as dangerous as chemical addictions. It is possible to overcome it, but it won’t necessarily be easy, depending on how addicted a person is. Sometimes determination will do the trick, but it might be necessary to call in professional help in some cases.