Nathan has played video games since he was a kid. For most of his life, they were a fun outlet. Nathan would game with his friends, but he was always able keep up with his school work and team practices. Nathan noticed, however, that since he started his first full time job, things have been different. He plays after work every day, often into the night and sometimes through the night. Nathan wants to stop. His job performance is suffering. Nathan has tried to stop, but after a few days of cutting back, he usually returns to his old habits. Nathan is wondering what is happening to him and concerned that he may have a video game addiction.
Mental health professionals are still studying whether an inability to regulate one’s video game use fits the clinical definition of addiction, but they are clear about several things: Many people have a hard time stopping their game play. Many people play more often than they want. Many people try to stop gaming and cannot. Many people are forming emotional attachments to games or their avatars.
Another parallel exists: Many people are turning to tradition interventions for addictions in order to overcome their gaming habits. Twelve-steps programs have been formed such as Online Gamers Anonymous that are based upon the principles of Alcoholics Anonymous. People are also looking to therapy for help.
The therapists at Thriveworks Maumelle are seeing children, teens, adults who have difficulty controlling their video game habits. Help is available. Counseling techniques such as cognitive behavior therapy are proving effective at managing video game compulsion.
Internet Gaming Disorder
People frequently use the term “video game addiction” to describe the same behaviors that The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-5) labels as “internet gaming disorder.” The DSM-5 calls for further study before categorizing it as an addition, but the symptoms it gives for internet gaming disorder have many similarities to other behavioral addictions such as gambling.
According to the DSM-5, people may struggle with mild, moderate, or severe internet gaming disorder, depending upon how many of the following symptoms they present:
- Attempting to curb or quit gaming with no sustained change.
- Feeling preoccupied with games and game play–thinking about them all the time, whether or not one is playing.
- Playing longer and/or more often to feel satiated–building a tolerance to gaming.
- Escaping challenging emotions (guilt, anxiety, fear, sadness, loneliness, boredom, and anxiety) through game play.
- Feeling withdrawal symptoms when curbing or stopping play (feeling restless, depression, irritable, and/or moody).
- Avoiding real-world problems or challenges by gaming.
- Lying and deceiving about one’s video game habits.
Many parents and guardians are worried about their children’s gaming habits and wonder what is normal for children. An estimated 10 percent of gamers ages 8-18 have formed internet gaming disorder. The previously listed symptoms apply to children and teens, but the following are also signs of internet gaming disorder:
- Gaming alone.
- Lethargy and drowsiness during the day.
- Dropping grades.
- Incomplete school work and homework.
- Waning interest in sports, activities, and/or friends.
How Does A Gaming Compulsion Form?
Mental health professionals are still searching for definitive answers on how a gaming compulsion can form, but one theory is that the narratives of video games contribute to the disorder. Social networking games, mobile games, and massively multi-player online role-playing games (MMORPG) write compulsion loops, also called core loops, into the game’s storyline.
These loops present players with a series of challenges and rewards. Each reward leads immediately into the next challenge, thus, looping players further into the game. With each reward, dopamine is also released in a player’s brain, connecting the experience of playing with pleasure.
One example is Monster Hunter. In this game, players hunt and kill monsters (the challenge). When they are successful, they receive power from the monster they just killed (reward). With their new powers, they can fight fiercer monsters (reward ties into the next challenge) to gain more powers to fight more monsters, and so forth. With each reward, the brain solidifies its association of pleasure with the game.
Counseling for Gaming Disorders at Thriveworks Maumelle
As you read through the symptoms and signs of internet gaming disorder, did you recognizing any of the behaviors? In yourself? In your child? If so, you may be among the growing number of people who struggle with video game addiction. A Growing number of people are also reaching out for help from mental health professionals to take back control of their gaming habits.
If you want to meet with a therapist at Thriveworks Maumelle, we have appointments available, and we see adolescents and adults. It may also be helpful to know that…
- Weekend and evening sessions are available.
- We accept many different insurance plans.
- There is no waitlist at our office.
Are you ready to take back control of your video game habits? We are ready to help. Contact Thriveworks Maumelle today.