Jesse’s parents recently put restrictions on how much he plays his favorite video game, Counter-Strike. They were growing concerned that their 11-year-old was spending so much time playing a video game by himself, and the way Jesse reacted to the restrictions increased their concerns. Jesse seems to fall apart when he cannot play. His parents have also discovered that he lied to them about being a friend’s house—he was gaming instead of playing basketball like he said. Jesse’s parents are not sure what to do next, and they are wondering if their child may have a video game addiction.
Mental health professionals are still gathering data on whether compulsive gaming meets the formal criteria to be an addiction, but one thing is clear: many people have trouble controlling when and how long they play video games. They may also be replacing real-world relationships with an emotional connection to online gaming and an online persona.
Many treatments for compulsive gaming are also being formed. Several twelve step programs that are based upon Alcoholics Anonymous have formed to support online gaming addicts. Many people are also seeking out mental health therapy for themselves or their child.
At Thriveworks Knoxville, we see many clients who struggle to control their gaming habits, and we have equipped them with the coping skills and healing they need to regain their self-control.
Compulsive Internet Gaming
What many people refer to as a video game addiction, The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-5) calls internet gaming disorder. DSM-5 gives criteria for diagnosing internet gaming disorder as well as severity modifiers. It also calls for more research, including it in the section, “Conditions for Further Study” instead of in its official list of disorders.
Internet gaming disorder is similar to other behavior-based addictions, like gambling. The problem is with control: whether people can self-regulate their game play. Depending upon how many of the following signs people display, they may have mild, moderate, or severe internet gaming disorder:
- Gaming instead of dealing with real-life responsibilities or problems.
- Choosing videos games over one’s education, career, friends, or family.
- Feeling withdrawal (irritable, moody, aggressive, restless, or depressed) when one cannot play.
- Deceiving loved one’s about game use.
- Trying to quit gaming without success.
- Obsessing over the game, even when not playing.
- Easing hard emotions (guilt, anxiety, sadness, loneliness, depression, et cetera) with video games.
- Gaming longer to feel the same satisfaction.
- Parents also need to be on the lookout for the following signs in their children that have resulted from gaming:
- Unfinished school assignments.
- Sleepiness throughout the day.
- Lowering grades.
- Disinterest in previously enjoyable activities.
- Gaming by themselves.
Possible Causes of Internet Gaming Disorder
There is still much to be learned about how internet gaming disorders are caused, but one theory is that the compulsion loops within the narratives of many video games contribute significantly to the disorder. Mobile games, social networking games, and massively multi-player online role-playing games (MMORPG) employ these core or compulsion loops. The games give players a task and then a reward them for complete the task. Players’ brains release dopamine with each reward, and their brain soon connects the feeling of pleasure with the video game.
One example is the game, Monster Hunter. Players in this game must slay a monster. When they are successful, they gain some power from the defeated monster that they can use to battle more monsters. With every success, their brains also receive dopamine.
Compulsive Gaming and Potential Problems
Compulsive gaming can lead a to a host of emotional, relational, and physical challenges. The effective of internet gaming disorder are very similar to those who struggle with addiction face:
- Relational problems: Loved ones are often driven away when people lie about their gaming and prioritize it over other relationships.
- Emotional problems: Gaming may initially soothe difficult emotions, but it never resolves them. They often grow worse when unaddressed.
- Physical problems: Playing video games can lead to health challenges including sleep disruptions, irregular eating habits, back pain, inattention to personal hygiene, Carpel Tunnel Syndrome, severe headaches, and dry eyes.
Treatment for Video Game Addiction at Thriveworks Knoxville
If your child’s gaming habits have become uncontrollable… if you are missing out on professional opportunities or social connections because of gaming… if you are experiencing some of the relational, emotional, or physical problems listed above… know that many people have overcome their video game addiction through therapy. If you are ready to meet with a mental health professional, know that Thriveworks Knoxville has appointments available.
The therapists at Thriveworks Knoxville have helped many adults and children regain control of their gaming habits. They give each client individual and holistic care.
If you want to speak with one of our therapists about your own or your child’s gaming habits, know that when you call our office, you will likely have an appointment within 24 hours. We do not keep waitlists, but we make weekend and evening appointments available. We also accept many forms of insurance.
If you are ready to get started, so are we. Call Thriveworks Knoxville today.