Kendall started playing video games with his friends in college—they would play for hours together. When he started his first job and moved into his own apartment, he kept playing—just by himself. Kendall comes home most days and plays until he falls asleep. Recently, he has been turning down invitations to go out with friends so he can keep gaming. The other week, he played video games throughout the night and then had to go to work without any sleep. Kendall knows this is becoming a problem; he’s having difficulty stopping and wonders if he may have a video game addiction.
Not all addictions are chemical dependencies; some are behavior compulsions, such as a gambling addiction. The research is not definitive on whether video games fit the strict definition of an addiction, but many mental health professionals agree that many people can begin struggling with impulse control regarding their use of video games. Whether the label is addiction or not, many people are replacing their real-world connections with friends and family with their emotional attachment to video games.
Thriveworks Johnson City offers therapy for video game addiction, and our therapists have helped many people regain control over their use of video games and learn healthy coping skills for handling life’s challenges.
Internet Gaming Disorder
What many people refer to as a video game addition, The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-5) addresses as an internet gaming disorder. The DSM-5 calls for more research to be conducted before internet gaming disorder is acknowledged as an official disorder. But the DSM-5 gives criteria for diagnosing internet gaming disorder as well as severity modifiers. A person may have a mild, moderate, or severe internet gaming disorder, depending upon how many symptoms they present.
Symptoms may include…
- Developing a gaming tolerance—playing for longer periods of time in order to feel satisfied.
- Obsessing about games.
- Using video games to soothe difficult emotions such as guilt, sadness, anxiety, or fear.
- Playing video games to avoid real-life problems.
- When playing less or trying to stop gaming, feeling withdrawal symptoms—moodiness, irritability, restlessness, or depression.
- Passing on time with loved ones or professional/educational opportunities in order to game.
- Lying about how much and when one plays.
Parents, especially, should know about these signs for their children:
- Sleeping during the day or at school—general lethargy.
- Not completing school assignments.
- Poor/declining school performance.
- Lost interest/quitting previously beloved activities and sports.
- Gaming by themselves.
These behaviors may signal that someone is losing control of their gaming. Video game addictions and internet gaming disorders are about control: whether or not a person can control when, where, and how long they play video games.
Causes of Internet Gaming Disorder
There is much research to be conducted on why people develop compulsive gaming use, but one possible cause is the use of core loops within games. Social networking games, massively multiplayer online role-playing games (MMORPG), and mobile games have compulsion, or core loops, within their game’s narrative. These loops draw people further into the game through challenges and rewards that release dopamine within a player’s brain, and thus the loops connect gaming and satisfaction.
For example, in Monster Hunter, when players battle and defeat one monster, they are rewarded with more powers and then presented with the opportunity to battle a stronger monster with their new powers. Once that stronger monster is defeated, then even more powers are rewarded, and more powerful monsters are presented, and so forth. With each cycle, players also receive a release of dopamine.
Seeking Help for Compulsive Gaming
Compulsive gaming can greatly affect a person’s life—causing relational, emotional, and physical challenges:
- Relational: Lying about video game use, spending too much money on gaming, or prioritizing gaming over time with loved ones can drive relational wedges between people who struggle with compulsive gaming and their loved ones.
- Emotional: Having a double life online with an alter-ego or avatar can lead to depression or an anxiety disorder in real life.
- Physical: Health problems can plague people who cannot control their gaming. They may experience sleep disturbances, dry eyes, severe headaches, back pain, and Carpel Tunnel Syndrome.
Are you experiencing these challenges because of your gaming? Is your child or someone you love experiencing these challenges? Help is available. Thriveworks Johnson City offers therapy for internet gaming disorder.
If you are ready to overcome the disruptions in your life that gaming is causing, know that when you call Thriveworks Johnson City, you may be able to meet with a therapist within 24 hours—many new clients do. We also accept many insurance plans.
Are you ready to overcome your compulsive gaming habits? We are ready to help. Call Thriveworks Johnson City today.