Levi’s buddies texted to ask if he wanted to play Frisbee golf at the park. No, he replies, not today. Levi has been playing video games at home every afternoon and into the evening. He plays almost all day on the weekends too. Recently, his parents found him playing in the middle of the night. They thought he had gone to bed, but Levi did not notice how late it was. His grades are falling too. Last year, he made straight A’s, but this semester, he is barely making C’s. Levi’s parents are concerned, and they think he might have a video game addiction.
What is commonly referred to as a video game addiction, The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-5) labels, “internet gaming disorder.” The DSM-5 calls for more study before labeling it as an official addiction, but one thing is already known: some people have difficulty regulating their video game play.
If your child is having difficulty controlling his or her gaming, you are not alone. It is estimated that 1 in 10 gamers ages 8-18 struggle with compulsion. Many adults struggle as well. In fact, 12-step programs have been formed to help gamers. Many people are also looking to counseling or therapy for support.
Thriveworks Charlotte offers counseling for internet gaming disorder because we know it cause problems in people’s lives. We also know people can change; they can take back control of when and how long they play video games.
The Signs of Video Game Addiction
Video game addiction—or internet gaming disorder—often involves an emotional attachment to a particular game or an online avatar. As the connection grows, people often are unable to control their impulses and their gaming habits.
The following lists diagnostics given by the DSM-5 as signs that someone may have an internet gaming disorder:
- Obsession: Thinking about gaming all the time, even if they are not playing.
- Tolerance: Gaming for longer periods of time and more often to reach a level of satiety.
- Avoidance: Escaping from real-world challenge, difficulties, and problems through video games.
- Skewed priorities: Spending more time and effort on videos games than family, friends, career, and/or education.
- Withdrawal: Going through irritability, moodiness, depression, or restlessness when attempting to curb or quit gaming.
- Deceit: Lying to family and friends about one’s gaming habits.
- Escape: Trying to soothe difficult emotions (shame, guilt, sadness, anxiety, loneliness, boredom, depression, and more) by playing video games.
As parents look for signs of video game addiction in their children, they should note the previous list, but also look for the following:
- Drowsiness and lethargy throughout the day.
- Waning interest in activities and friends.
- Unfinished school assignments.
- Playing video games alone.
- Lowering grades.
People may struggle with a mild, moderate, or severe form of internet gaming disorder based upon the number of symptoms presented.
What Causes Internet Gaming Disorder?
Researchers are still studying the many factors that could cause internet gaming disorder, and one possible factor is the way video games are written. Social networking games, mobile games, and role-playing games often utilize compulsion loops (also called core loops) within their narratives.
Compulsion loops function by giving players a challenge and a reward. Each reward serves two purposes. First, the reward releases dopamine in a person’s brain connecting the gaming experience with the feeling of pleasure. Second, the reward links into the next challenge, luring players further into the game.
Monster Hunter utilizes compulsion loops in its narrative. The challenge given to players is to hunt and slay monsters. The reward for doing so is receiving greater powers that allow players to hunt more monsters. With each reward, players are looped into another challenge while their brain is also releasing dopamine, telling them it is a pleasurable experience.
Compulsive Gaming: Seeking out Help
Anyone who has struggle with a behavioral addiction or an impulse control disorder knows the devastating these can bring into someone’s life, and internet gaming disorder is no different. Some of the harm compulsive gaming can cause includes:
- Driving loved ones away because of excessive time spent gaming or lies about gaming.
- Experiencing physical problems such as Carpel Tunnel Syndrome, poor eating habits, dry eyes, irregular sleep, neglected hygiene, headaches, and back pain.
- Growing emotional problems such as anxiety or depression.
Do you recognize the symptoms of video game addiction in yourself or in your child? If so, you are not alone. Many people are struggling to regulate their video game play, and many people are reaching out for the help they need. Help is available. Thriveworks Charlotte offers counseling for video game addiction, and we have appointments available.
When you call our office, a person will answer. New clients often meet with their counselor within a day or a few days of their call. There are no waitlists. We offer evening and weekend sessions. We also work with many insurance companies.
If it is time to see a mental health professional for your or your child’s gaming habits, we are ready for you. Call Thriveworks Charlotte today.