Silas has been coming home from school and playing video games until bedtime for the past several months. His friends used to text and ask if he wanted to play basketball at the park or hang out at their houses, but Silas has been saying no for a few months now. His friends have stopped asking. Silas’s parents are noticing these changes in him, and they are concerned. They have tried to put restrictions on video games, but Silas is not taking it well. He has found ways to get around their rules, and Silas’s parents are wondering if he may have a video game addiction.
Many people use the term “video game addiction” to refer to what The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-5) labels “internet gaming disorder.” The DSM-5 calls for more study of the disorder, but several things are known:
- Many people struggle to control when, where, how, and how long they play video games.
- Many people are neglecting real-world personal and professional connections and forming an attachment to gaming.
- Many people are benefitting from interventions traditionally used to treat addictions: 12-step programs and mental health therapy.
Thriveworks Marietta offers counseling for adolescents and adults who are having a hard time controlling their video game use. We are worked with many clients as they establish healthier gaming habits.
Video Game Addiction: What Is It?
Not all addictions are dependent upon a chemical or drug—some are impulse control disorders such as gambling. The DSM-5 has not officially labeled internet gaming disorder as such, but it gives diagnostics for it that overlap greatly with behaviors that other addictions display. Many mental health professionals are studying video game use to understand if it could fit the strict definition of an addiction.
People may have internet gaming disorder if they cannot control their gaming as displayed by the following behaviors:
- Tolerating gaming more and more—playing video games for longer times to feel satiated.
- Alleviating challenging emotions by playing video games (guilt, loneliness, sadness, boredom, anxiety, or depression).
- Thinking obsessively and excessively about the games.
- When not gaming, feeling withdrawal—moodiness, irritability, restlessness, or depression.
- Attempting to stop gaming but without success.
- Spending more time, attention, and/or money on gaming than friends, family, career, or education.
- Escaping from life’s challenges and/or problems by playing video games.
- Lying about game use.
- In preteens and teens, parents should look for these additional signs:
- Dropping enjoyable activities (clubs, sports, et cetera).
- Drowsiness, fatigue, lethargy (In particular, falling asleep during the day).
- Low grades.
- Unfinished school assignments.
- Gaming by themselves.
The DSM-5 acknowledges that people can have severe, moderate, or mild internet gaming disorder depending upon how many symptoms they exhibit.
How Does Internet Gaming Disorder Start?
There are many factors that can lead to compulsive gaming, but one may be compulsion loops that are written into the narratives of many games. Core or compulsion loops are an interlocking series of challenges and rewards that draw players further into the game. Massively multi-player online role-playing games (MMORPG), mobile games, and social networking games utilize these loops.
Core loops present players with a challenge. When players complete the challenge, they are rewarded, and their prize leads into the next challenge. With each reward, dopamine is also released in a player’s brain, solidifying a connection between pleasure and the game.
One example is the game, Monster Hunter, where players slay monsters (challenge). When they win a battle, the player receives the defeated monster’s powers (reward) that allow the player to battle a fiercer monster (the reward ties into the next challenge). With each victory, the brain also releases dopamine.
Life Challenges and Impulsive Gaming
Like other impulse control disorders, internet gaming disorder can create many problems in people’s lives. Many of these problems are similar to the challenges that addicts face, including physical, emotional, and relational difficulties:
- Physical difficulties may include Carpel Tunnel Syndrome, acute headaches, dry eyes, irregular eating habits, back pain, sleep disturbances, and relaxed personal hygiene habits.
- Emotional difficulties often result from mental health problems, such as anxiety or depression, being unaddressed and growing worse.
- Relational difficulties may include the consequences of choosing video games over loved ones, irresponsible spending on gaming equipment and fees, and/or lying about gaming habits.
Compulsive Gaming Interventions at Thriveworks Marietta, GA
If you video game use is out of control in your life, you are not alone. If your child is struggling because of video games, help is available. The therapists at Thriveworks Marietta have formulated a holistic and individualized treatment plan for many clients, and they are ready to help you.
When you call our office, know that a person will answer your call and help schedule your appointment—there is no voicemail and no automated response. There are also no waitlists.. We also work with many insurance companies.
We hope each client receives the mental health care they need, when they need it. Are you ready to get started? Call Thriveworks Marietta today.