Noah started playing video games when he was kid, and they have never caused problems for him until recently. He moved to a new city a few months ago and started his first full time job. Noah comes back to his apartment after work, and he used to game online with his college buddies long into the night. They all started new jobs too, and within a few weeks, almost everyone had stopped—except Noah. He wants to stop, but a few nights a week, Noah games all night. He is falling asleep at work. Noah has tried a few times to cut back, but within a few days, he is playing around the clock again. Noah wonders if something more may be going on, if he may have a video game addiction.
More study is being conducted on whether compulsive gaming fits the formal definition of addiction, but several realities are known: a lot of people struggle to regulate their video game play. Many are using video games to escape the stress of daily life, and many are forming an emotional attachment to gaming.
Many people are also turning to interventions that traditionally serve addicts. Computer Gaming Addicts Anonymous and Online Gamers Anonymous have formed and base their programs upon the principles in Alcoholics Anonymous. People are also turning to counseling and mental health interventions to overcome compulsive video game use.
The counselors at Thriveworks Conway have met with many adolescents and adults who want to take back control of when and how long the play video games. We know what it takes to regain impulse control and have seen many people overcome their compulsive gaming habits.
Internet Gaming Disorder: Knowing the Signs
A lot of people use the term “video game addiction” for what The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-5) formally labels “internet gaming disorder.” In all practicality, they are referring to the same phenomenon: when people cannot self-regulate how often and how long they play video games. The DSM-5 calls for further study before labeling internet gaming disorder an addiction.
According to the DSM-5, people may have a severe, moderate, or mild form of internet gaming disorder depending upon how many of the following symptoms are displayed:
- Trying to stop playing or curb playing but without success.
- Obsessing about gaming—thinking about it even when not playing.
- Developing a tolerance to gaming—playing for a longer time to feel satisfied.
- Numbing difficult emotions (boredom, guilt, sadness, fear, anxiety, loneliness, and anxiety) by playing video games.
- Going into withdrawal (feeling depression, restless, irritable, and/or moody) when one cannot play.
- Distracting oneself from problems or challenges in life by playing video games.
- Choosing game play over time with loved ones or opportunities to further one’s education/career.
- Lying about one’s video game play.
If parents or guardians are concerned that their children may have internet gaming disorder, the same symptoms apply to adolescents. They may also display the following if they are gaming compulsively:
- Playing video games by themselves.
- Drowsiness, lethargy, and sleepiness at school.
- Falling grades.
- Unfinished school and homework assignments.
- Lost interest in activities and friends.
Internet Gaming Disorder: How Does It Form?
Much research is being conducted about how video game use can become compulsive, but one factor may be the way that video games are written. Many social networking games, mobile games, and massively multi-player online role-playing games (MMORPG) utilizing compulsion loops, also known as core loops to keep players interested in their narratives.
Compulsion loops utilize a series of interlocking challenges and rewards wherein each reward loops into the next challenge. At the same time, players’ brains are releasing dopamine, connecting the experience with the feeling of pleasure.
The game, Monster Hunter, is one of many games that utilize compulsion loops. The game gives players a challenge: to kill monsters. When players successfully complete the challenge, they receive a reward: powers from the slain monster transfer to their avatar. This reward leads into the next challenge: more powers allow players to battle more monsters. The cycle continues endlessly. With each loop, the brain also releases dopamine, making the experience pleasurable for players.
Therapy for Compulsive Gaming at Thriveworks Conway
Did you recognize some of the symptoms of internet gaming disorder? Have you seen them in your child? If you are, you are among the many people who are struggling. Know that many people are also finding the help they need through therapy.
If you are ready to start therapy, know that Thriveworks Conway has appointments available. We see children, teen, and adults who are battling internet gaming disorder.
When you call our office, know that…
- We work with many insurance companies and accept many insurance plans.
- Evening and weekend sessions are available.
If you are ready, so are we. Contact Thriveworks Conway today.