What is Video Game Addiction?
Video game addiction is a form of impulse control disorder that may result from playing video games frequently. A dopamine rush is a tentative explanation for the addictive quality that video games can have for some individuals. Also, video game addiction is commonly related to gambling addiction because the two share a high that comes from winning.
The neurotransmitter dopamine runs through certain pathways in the forebrain that activate when one is playing video games. Dopamine plays a leading role in other addictions, including drug and alcohol abuse. It triggers a boost in mood and energy that contributes to addiction.
Individuals with social anxiety may find that video games are a medium through which to interact with others (virtual players) while avoiding in-person contact. This is particularly common in kids and teens and could lead to a worsening of social anxiety.
It’s important to note that evidence supporting the idea that video games can be addictive is sparse. Research on this condition is still in the works, but gaming disorder was added to the 2018 edition of the International Classification of Diseases, a medical reference book from the World Health Organization.
Signs of Video Game Addiction
Video game addiction may develop gradually with signs of addiction becoming more apparent over time. The main signs of this addiction to look out for are:
- Disinterest or neglect of personal relationships, work, or school
- Neglect of chores, grooming, hygiene, and/or healthy habits like exercising
- Feeling like you can’t stop playing video games or spend less time playing video games
- Becoming moody, angry, or irritable when you have to stop playing video games for a period of time
- Playing video games to escape stress and anxiety
- Feeling like you must spend more time playing video games to feel the same emotional high
- Feeling withdrawal symptoms (like trouble sleeping, mood swings, loss of appetite, etc.) if you’re forced to stop playing video games
- Dishonesty about the amount of time spent playing video games to friends, family members, or a therapist
The key signs that the enjoyment of video games has shifted into addiction are:
- When you feel unable to control the time spent playing video games
- When your personal and/or professional life suffers from the time spent playing video games
How is Video Game Addiction Treated?
Since research on video game addiction is still a work in progress, treatment methods for this condition aren’t fully established. However, existing treatments for video game addiction do exist and focus on behavioral modifications. This type of therapy works to replace destructive habits with healthy ones.
Cognitive behavioral therapy is a common form of behavioral therapy that may help with addiction. It works to reduce obsessive thoughts and habits in the patient so that they may gradually reduce their dependence on video games, substances, etc.
People suffering from video game addiction may benefit from group therapy. Group therapy can help a patient feel supported and motivated to fight their addiction. The support of group members can also be valuable in the treatment of social anxiety along with video game addiction.
Video game addiction may accompany other conditions, namely anxiety, social anxiety, Attention Deficit Disorder (ADHD), and depression. In conjunction with these conditions, video game addiction may benefit from medications such as antidepressants or anxiety drugs.
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.