Liam’s parents are concerned. A year ago, he would come home from school, do his homework, and then race off on his bike to meet friends. They know it has been a tough year for Liam, moving from elementary school to middle school. They thought he would adjust by now, but he has not. Liam plays video games all afternoon and into the evening. He is not doing his homework, and Liam’s English teacher called to say he has fallen asleep in class twice this week. Liam’s parents are not sure how to help him, and they are concerned that he has a video game addiction.
Mental health professionals are studying what people commonly call video game addiction. While there is much more to learn, many things are clear: a significant amount of people struggle to regulate their video game play. The signs and symptoms they display with their gaming is similar to other impulse control addictions like gambling.
Just as there are support groups and therapies for addictions, interventions are being developed to help people who struggle with gaming. Twelve-steps programs such as Computer Gaming Addicts Anonymous and Online Gamers Anonymous are based upon Alcoholic Anonymous. Counseling practices are also seeing more and more clients, helping them develop the skills to control their gaming habits.
Thriveworks Columbia sees many clients who know that video games are taking over their lives. Our therapists have guided them to take back control from gaming.
Video Game Addiction: Signs and Symptoms
When people talk about video game addiction, they are often speaking of the official diagnosis of internet gaming disorder. The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-5) gives signs and symptoms for internet gaming disorder, but it also calls for more study officially calling it an addiction.
The following list outlines the DSM-5’s diagnostics for internet gaming disorder. In each sign, there is a common theme: control. The main question is whether people can control their video game use or whether video game play control their lives. How can people know the difference? If they display the following behaviors, they may have lost control of their gaming. They may have mild, moderate, or severe internet gaming disorder:
- Trying to curb use or quit playing but being unable to sustain control.
- Deceiving family members, friends, employers, and/or counselors about one’s game use.
- Being consumed, obsessed, and preoccupied with gaming, both when playing and when not.
- Feeling withdrawal symptoms such as moodiness, irritability, aggressiveness, depression, or restlessness when unable to game.
- Seeking relief from difficult emotions (sadness, loneliness, depression, guilt, shame, anxiety, disappointment, and more) though video game play.
- Prioritizing gaming over real-world opportunities to connect with loved ones or to advance one’s career or education.
- Developing a tolerance to gaming—playing longer to feel the same level of satisfaction.
- Distracting oneself from life problems or responsibilities with video games.
It is estimated that 10 percent of gamers ages 8-18 have a dependency upon video games. Parents should look out for these signs in their children in addition to the previously listed symptoms:
- Drowsiness and sleepiness at school.
- Gaming by themselves.
- Dropping grades.
- Incomplete home work.
- Quitting or lost interest in activities they once enjoyed.
Compulsive Online Gaming and Real-life Disruptions
Just as a gambling addiction can lead to devastating consequences in a person’s life, so can internet gaming disorder. If left untreated, emotional, physical, and relational difficulties may result:
- Physical – Compulsive video game play may result in Carpel Tunnel Syndrome, neglected hygiene, headaches, irregular sleeping habits, dry eyes, and irregular eating habits.
- Relational – When people lie about their video game use or choose time gaming over time with loved ones, they can cause great relational harm to their friends and family.
- Emotional – If a person numbs difficult emotions with video games, these emotions are not resolved. Instead, they may grow worse the longer they are unaddressed.
Internet Gaming Disorder Counseling at Thriveworks Columbia
As you read through the symptoms and signs of internet gaming disorder, did you recognize any? Maybe you are struggling. Maybe your child is. Men, women, boys, and girls can struggle with their impulse control regarding video games. It affects the lives of many people, but many people are also finding support and help from mental health professionals. You are not alone.
If you are ready to talk with a counselor, our professionals are ready to listen. We work with teens and adults. Our office has done what we can to make scheduling an appointment as easy as possible.
When you call our office, you may be meeting with your therapist the following day. Many new clients have their first appointment within 24 hours of their first call. We also accept many forms of insurance.
Let’s work together to take back control of your or your child’s video game habits. Call Thriveworks Columbia today.