Video games have emerged as one of the most popular forms of entertainment around, and it’s not hard to understand why.
The video gaming industry is booming, and with more games, consoles, and communities existing than ever, it’s hard not to be aware of it. But, along with the rise in video games has come an unanticipated consequence: video gaming addictions.
Video gaming addictions are a genuine and increasingly common issue, especially among young people and children. As video games become a more important part of our world and culture, it’s important to be aware of addiction signs and know what to do about them.
What Is An Addiction?
An addiction can be classified as an intense focus on a certain substance or activity, even when that substance or activity is negatively impacting or taking over one’s life. They can distort thinking, affect decision-making or memory, and create a vicious cycle of using and craving the addiction source. Remember that a chemical dependency is not necessary to become addicted. You can become addicted to a habit, like gambling or even work. If you have begun to crave something so intensely that you sacrifice other things that are important to you in your life, make questionable decisions to partake in that activity, and/or you feel that this habit or substance controls you more than you control it, then you may have an addiction.
Addictions can be incredibly powerful and debilitating. However, all hope is not lost: with proper treatment, many people can recover from their addictions and live healthy, normal lives.
Though it’s possible to recover from an addiction, sometimes it might not feel that way. Many people who are addicted to a substance or activity heavily rely on it to feel like themselves, and it can be quite difficult to cut it out of their lives as a result.
Addictions are complex disorders and deserve to be treated as such. Many people are aware of the signs of substance abuse addictions, but video gaming addictions can be a little trickier to detect.
What Does Video Game Addiction Look Like?
Video game addictions are a fairly new phenomenon, and as a result, many individuals aren’t aware of the warning signs. Something important to keep in mind is that video game addictions don’t just impact young people. They can impact anyone who plays video games, from children to adults.
It’s also true that video games are a fun and healthy way to express creativity, interact with others, or even just blow off some steam for many people. There are many varieties of video games, and many are even designed to be intellectually stimulating. Some people even turn gaming into a lucrative career.
That’s why it’s important to remember that video games are not inherently harmful. There is indeed a difference between healthy video gaming and addictive video-gaming. The main difference is often in the ability to control one’s desire to play video games. In fact, some professionals consider video game addictions to be similar to other types of impulse control addictions, like gambling or a social media addiction.
Excessive video game playing that interferes with one’s life (affecting schoolwork, family life, friendships, etc.) is a key warning sign that someone may be addicted. These sorts of behavioral trends can also be indicative of other mental health issues, like depression.
Here are some other warning signs of a developing or existing video game addiction:
- Interference with school, work, or the home; a drop in grades, for example, might be a sign that something is wrong.
- Less time spent with others or doing other activities and hobbies; an individual may consistently turn down invitations to see friends in favor of playing video games, for example.
- An excessive amount of time spent playing video games, or an inability to limit time spent playing video games. Perhaps a person may feel that they need to cut back on their time playing video games, but it feels difficult or nearly impossible when they try to stop.
- Mood changes: irritability, fatigue, anxiety, anger, etc.
- Lack of self-care; this can include mental health, eating properly, sleeping normal hours, staying hydrated, hygiene, etc.
- Finding it hard to enjoy other activities, especially those that you used to enjoy in the past
- Relying on video gaming as a sole method to relieve stress, frustration, or other emotions. This is an example of a potentially negative coping mechanism, and though it might not constitute an addiction on its own, it is something to be aware of.
If any of these warning signs sound familiar to you, then taking a gaming disorder test may be a good idea.
As is the case with just about any form of addiction, a video gaming addiction can be life-altering and very damaging if left unchecked.
Some of the potential consequences of gaming addiction are those that we’ve already discussed above, but a gaming addiction can have long-term effects that can impact someone long after they’ve finished battling it.
Potential consequences of a gaming addiction might include:
- A shift in lifestyle to become more sedentary. A lifestyle change of this sort can also have various effects, like weight gain, poor sleep and mental health, pain from poor posture, and more. Though video games don’t harm the body like alcohol might, it can still potentially impact your physical health.
- Lack of social skills or other developmental skills. This is especially true for children and adolescents who may miss out on important opportunities to make friends, have new experiences, and begin to mature due to excessive gaming.
- Struggling to appropriately regulate emotions or healthily express them. Anger, frustration, and stress might result from a video gaming addiction, and relying on video gaming as a coping mechanism might make it harder for an individual to appropriately express emotion in other ways. Any time you channel your anger and frustration into a video game, you could miss out on an opportunity to process that emotion more directly or healthily.
It is important to note that, as is the case with many addictions, the addiction could be a symptom of a greater problem than the source of the problem. That is to say that a person addicted to video games could be escaping from reality because there is a situation in the “real world” that they do not want to confront. A video game addiction could also become a vicious cycle, as it could actually be adding to the root of the problem rather than solving it. For example, if someone tries to escape into a video game because they are struggling with depression, then that gaming addiction subsequently impacts their sleep schedule and eating schedule; it could actually make the original mental health problem significantly worse, rather than helping the person escape from it as they initially intended. It may be beneficial to ask yourself, or a loved one struggling with a video game addiction if there is something else going on that could be causing the video game addiction.
Gaming can make it possible to escape the real world almost entirely. However, when an individual moves from recreational video gaming to addictive video gaming, it may be time to ask for help.
Our game addiction test, discussed in detail below, is a great tool to help you understand gaming addictions, whether it be for yourself or for someone else.
Taking A Gaming Addiction Test
It can be incredibly challenging to come to the realization that you may be struggling with an addiction of any kind, and it can be even harder to ask for help.
If, after reading our guide, you feel you or someone you know may have a video game addiction, you might benefit from checking out our free, confidential gaming addiction test.
This gaming addiction online assessment is not meant to be a diagnostic tool, but instead a way to consider your symptoms and, if necessary, access the resources available to get mental health support from professionals.
Supporting Those With Addictions
Having a good support system is an important part of recovering from gaming addiction.
If someone you know is struggling with a gaming addiction, you might be wondering what you can do to help. It’s important to remember that, as much as you may want to help someone, you alone might not be able to heal someone with a serious addiction.
But there are some things you can do to be a supportive figure and help encourage someone with an addiction to recover successfully. Here are a few examples:
- Understand the psychology behind an addiction. Someone with an addiction doesn’t simply choose to carry out addictive behaviors. Addictions can be just as tough to deal with as other mental health issues like depression or anxiety.
- Encourage the individual in question to seek professional help. Friends and family support are important and beneficial, but they do not substitute the assistance and resources that a healthcare professional can provide.
- Avoid partaking in the addictive behaviors yourself (in this case, avoid gaming around the addicted individual, or avoid mentioning gaming).
- Be supportive and positive, but also don’t allow yourself to make excuses for someone’s poor behavior or decisions. Remember that your mental health matters too.
A general tip for being supportive is to ask someone who’s struggling with addiction what they need or would like. Talking to your loved one about what specific things you can do to be supportive and help them successfully recover may be the best and easiest way to be supportive. Encourage them to be open and honest, ensuring that you will not judge them for what they are going through. If you create that supportive and open-minded space for them, you may find that other things are going on in their lives that you might not have known about that could explain the addiction.
If you suspect you or someone you care about has a video gaming addiction, it may be time to seek professional help.
Our addiction and video games test is a great tool to help you understand your symptoms and understand how to seek help, but it’s not a diagnosis. Always be sure to seek out the assistance of a healthcare professional when diagnosing and treating a video game addiction.
If you need help, don’t wait to ask for it. Video game addictions can be tough, and they deserve to be taken just as seriously as any other kind of addiction. But, through effective identification of the problem and treatment, it’s entirely possible to recover.