Miles and his college buddies used to play video games around the clock. After graduation, most of them moved to different cities, and with full-time jobs, they mostly stopped playing—except for Miles. He still plays throughout the night a few times a week. He has tried to cut back, but the hours he spends gaming inevitably increase. Miles wants to stop. He sees colleagues who were hired with him being promoted while he feels stuck. Miles wonders what else he can do and if he might be addicted to video games.
Along with Miles, many other people are struggling to regulate their video game use. More research is being conducted to understand whether compulsive gaming fits the same clinical categories as other behavior based addictions such as gambling, but several things are clear: the symptoms for compulsive gaming are very similar to those of addiction and so are the treatments.
Based upon the principles of Alcoholics Anonymous, several 12-step groups have formed that address gaming such as Online Gamers Anonymous and Computer Gaming Addicts Anonymous. People are also turning to therapy to regain control of their gaming.
Thriveworks Grand Rapids video game addiction counselors have worked with many clients who need help regulating their video game play. We have worked with children, teens, and adults, and we love seeing them find freedom and balance.
What Exactly Is Video Game Addiction?
What people normally talk about as a video game addiction, The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-5) formally labels internet gaming disorder and includes in the section, “Conditions for Further Study.” While the DSM-5 acknowledges that mental health professionals need more information on internet gaming disorder, it also acknowledges that much is known. The following are symptoms of internet gaming disorder:
- Lying to friends, family, and accountability partners about gaming habits.
- Obsessively thinking about games.
- Developing a tolerance to gaming—playing for more and more time to feel satiated.
- Alleviating difficult emotions such as anxiety, loneliness, boredom, guilt, sadness, shame, grief, or fear by playing video games.
- When trying to stop gaming or when unable to play, experiencing withdrawal—moodiness, irritability, restlessness, or depression.
- Playing video games to avoid solving real-life problems and challenges.
- Trying to stop without success.
- Choosing to game over pursuing time with loved ones or professional/educational opportunities.
In addition, parents should pay particular attention if their children or teens display the following:
- Falling grades.
- Drowsiness at school.
- Unfinished homework.
- Giving up activities they normally enjoy.
- Playing video games by themselves.
The underlying theme of these symptoms is control: do people have control over their video game habits or have video games taken control of their lives? Depending upon how many symptoms people present, they may have severe, moderate, or mile internet gaming disorder.
How Does Compulsive Gaming Start?
There are still many unanswered questions about why and how internet gaming disorder is caused, but many people believe that the way video game narratives are written is a contributor—especially core loops. Many social media games, massively multi-media online role-playing games (MMORPG), and mobile games utilize core loops—a system of challenges with rewards that interconnect to the next challenge.
This is how core loops work: the game presents a task. When players complete it, their reward helps them complete the next task, drawing them deeper into the narrative. With each reward, dopamine is also released in their brain. The dopamine solidifies the player’s association between the game and the experience of pleasure.
Monster Hunter is one game, of many, that employs these loops. Players hunt and battle monsters (the challenge). When they defeat a monster, they receive that monster’s powers (the reward). With new powers, they can battle fiercer monsters (the reward loops into the next challenge). Players’ brains also release dopamine with every reward, making the experience pleasurable.
Counseling for Internet Gaming Disorder
Compulsive gaming can cause serious harm in people’s lives. They may experience physical, relational, and emotional challenges as a result of gaming:
- Physically: many gamers struggle with dry eyes, severe headaches, Carpel Tunnel Syndrome, poor hygiene, irregular eating habits, back pain, and sleep disturbances.
- Relationally: irresponsible behaviors such as lying, overspending, or choosing gaming over time with loved ones can drive a wedge in relationships.
- Emotionally: when people turn to video games as a release for emotional pain, the pain is never resolved and healed. In fact, it may grow worse.
If you recognize the symptoms and the effects of internet gaming disorder, it may be time to reach out for professional help. If you are ready, so is Thriveworks Grand Rapids.
When you call our office, a scheduling specialist will answer. If you call today, you likely will see a therapist tomorrow. Many new clients have their first appointment within 24 hours of their first call. We offer weekend and evening sessions. We also accept many insurance plans.
Let’s get started. Call Thriveworks today.