When Javen’s parents restricted his access to the computer, and thus his favorite online game, they were worried about him. He used to love soccer and school, but since he started playing, Counter-Strike, Javen has been obsessed. He does not want to do anything else except play. They even caught him playing by himself in the middle of the night. Once Javen’s parents implemented the restrictions, their concerns continued to grow. Javen became despondent without being able to play the game. Then, his parents found out he lied to them—playing at a friend’s house when he was supposed to be at soccer practice. Exasperated, Javen’s parents do not know what else to do, and they are nervous that he might have a video game addiction.
Research is still being conducted to determine if what people popularly call video game addiction fits the formal definition of addiction, but a few things are abundantly clear: a lot of people play video games compulsively and experience addiction-like symptoms that may be comparable to other behavior addictions such as gambling.
Another similarity exists between addictions and compulsive video game use: their treatment. Several 12-step programs have been developed to help gamers, and these programs are modeled after alcoholics anonymous. Many people are also looking to a mental health professional for help as they regain control over their video game habits.
The therapists at Thriveworks Austin have helped many people who struggle with compulsive video game play. Our professionals know what it takes to establish self-control again.
What Is Video Game Addiction?
People commonly speak of video game addiction, and The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-5) addresses this behavior as internet gaming disorder. Similar to other behavior addiction such as gambling, internet gaming disorder is an impulse control disorder: people have difficulty regulating their gaming.
DSM-5 outlines the criteria for internet gaming disorder, gives severity modifiers. The disorder is also classified within the section, “Conditions for Further Study.” DSM-5 calls for more research before it classifies internet gaming disorder as an official disorder.
According to DSM-5’s diagnostic criteria, people may have mild, moderate, or severe internet gaming disorder depending upon how many of the following symptoms they display:
- Attempting to stop playing but without success.
- Lying to friends, family, and/or therapists about game use.
- Allowing video games to consume one’s life, while playing or not.
- Experiencing symptoms of withdrawal (irritability, depression, moodiness, aggressiveness, or restlessness) when trying to stop playing or being unable to play.
- Soothing uncomfortable feeling by gaming (guilt, sadness, shame, loneliness, anxiety, depression, disappointment, et cetera).
- Missing opportunities to further one’s education or career because of video game use.
- Prioritizing time gaming over time with friends or family.
- Playing more and more to experiencing the same feelings of satisfaction.
- Gaming to avoid real-world problems or responsibilities.
- For parents, watch for these additional signs in children:
- Incomplete school work.
- Drowsiness and lethargy during the day.
- Falling grades.
- Apathy about activities they previously enjoyed.
- Playing video games alone.
Potential Effects of Compulsive Gaming
Just as with other compulsive behaviors, internet gaming disorder can lead to devastating effects within a person’s life. Without appropriate interventions, compulsive gaming often causes physical, relational, and emotional difficulties:
- Physical difficulties: Excessive video game play can distract people from caring for their bodies in appropriately, and often people let sleeping, eating, and hygiene slide. Gaming can also directly cause Carpel Tunnel Syndrome, headaches, and dry eyes.
- Relational difficulties: Many of the behaviors video game addicts engage in are harmful to their loved ones. When people lie about their gaming, choose time playing over time with loved ones, or spend excessive money on video game equipment/fees, their relationships may suffer.
- Emotional difficulties: When video games distract people from their challenging emotions, those feelings are never addressed and resolved. Instead, the emotional problems, often anxiety or depression, grow more challenging the longer they are left unaddressed.
Treatment for Internet Gaming Disorder at Thriveworks Austin
Do you recognize any of the signs of video game addiction in your own life or in your child’s? If video games are in control, know that help and support are available. Gaming does not have to cause emotional, relational, and physical difficulties. Many people are seeking out interventions that help them regain control of their gaming habits.
The mental health professionals at Thriveworks Austin offer treatment for internet gaming disorder, and we have appointments available. We work with adolescents and adults.
If you are ready to meet with a therapist, know that most new clients at Thriveworks Austin have their first appointment within 24 hours of their first call. We offer weekend and evening sessions, and we work with most insurance companies.
If you want to take back control of your video game habits, we are ready to help. Call Thriveworks Austin to get started.