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How to Overcome a Video Game Addiction

Video game addiction can cause a detrimental effect to your mental, social or physical health.

It may not seem as much of a big deal compared to some of the other widely recognised addictions out there, but those who have experienced one first hand will understand just how bad it can be..

What is a video game addiction?

Video game addiction has been defined by the medical community as a behavioural addiction. This is characterized by the excessive or compulsive use of playing games – resulting to the interference of a person’s everyday life.

The addiction often includes increased priority given to gaming over other activities. To the extent that gaming takes precedence over other interests, daily activities, relationships, and an escalation of gaming despite the occurrence of any negative consequences.

It is in fact classed as its own distinct disorder by the World Health Organization, and was included in the ICD-11 in 2018.

How common is it?

If you’re starting to get concerned from what you’ve read so far don’t be to alarmed just yet, as recent studies suggest that gaming disorder affects only a small proportion of people (no more than 3%).

It is still unclear how much this disorder is caused by the gaming activity itself, or an effect of other disorders these people may have already had.

Playing games as a hobby or being labled as an addict is measured by the amount of damage that is caused to your life.

Addiction can be hard to quantify and there can be different levels of it. The American Psychological Association (APA) has developed their own criteria for characterizing a gaming disorder:

What are the symptoms of a video game addiction?

  • Continuing despite problems -- Spending all your free time playing video games even when you’re aware of the negative consequences.
  • Pre-occupation – Thinking about games whenever you’re not playing, or what you can do (in the game), when are next able to play.
  • Deceiving other people – Lying about how much time you spend gaming, or trying to stop others from knowing the truth.
  • Rejecting previous interests – Giving up on other hobbies that you used to enjoy doing.
  • Control – Not being able to quit a game or play for less, even if you think it would be a good idea.
  • Withdrawal – Feeling restless and irritable when you are unable to play.
  • Tolerance – Feeling the need to play more and more, longer and longer; to get the same amount of excitement.
  • Jeopardizing relationships Repeatedly ignoring family members or offline friendships. Having the risk of losing a job or any educational opportunities.
  • Emotional problems – Using video games to ‘escape’ or relieve any personal problems in your everyday life, such as: guilt, helplessness or depression.
  • Health issues -- Forgetting necessities such as eating, sleeping, or social interaction.
    – Letting your personal hygiene suffer on a regular basis.
    – Not exercising or doing outdoor activities.
    – Feeling anxious whenever you have to go outside.
    – Having frequent migraines, eye strain and gamers thumb.

What causes a video game addiction?

Anybody who plays video games knows they’re a lot of fun! It’s easy to play for hours and have it feel like only a few minutes have gone by.

People have a tendency to prefer to do things that are fun over things that are not and will often lack the discipline to want to do the mundane things in their daily life.

It takes a lot of discipline to do things when there are no fun alternatives around.

Most people who get into gaming start from a young age and will find this concept even harder to deal with due to being less mature, and lacking the foresight of why they should be doing anything other than playing games.

Having the motivation to do necessities such as household chores, going to school and getting out of the house can be a real drag on their lives and they will quickly want to gravitate back to what they like doing best.

Why are video games so popular?

Games are created to be fun and addictive, to attract attention and gain a profit. The more hours you spend increasing your skills, levelling up, progressing further while accumulating virtual wealth and online friends, the more you will feel rewarded and want to play longer each day.

In many offline games you’re required to complete missions or beat a high score; often with the option to skirmish against the computer to keep you entertained for as long as possible.

Online games are especially addictive because you can play with the interaction from friends or other people, and they generally have no ending!

It’s very easy to understand how people can get addicted to games if the person is attracted to the subject of the game. However, not all games will become an addiction. A game like chess is certainly not going to affect a person in the same way as let’s say Fortnite.

The game must contain a number of intrinsic/ extrinsic motivational traits in the form of objectives, exploration, competition, mastery, etc.

In return this will make the player feel rewarded, resulting in an increase their dopamine levels similar to sex or alcohol.

Won't stop, can't stop: Fortnite: Part one - Addicted to online gaming | 60 Minutes Australia

How do I treat my video game addiction?

  • Awareness – Observe how gaming is affecting you and other people around you, Are they having the same negative consequences as you?
  • Motivation – Try to understand that you are wasting your time from this habit. Review your life, what could be better? How can you change this?
  • Moderation – Accept that if you finally want to quit you will have to cut back the hours you play. Avoiding certain games (such as MMO’s/ RPG’s) should help you with this.
  • Forget and move on – If you’re ready to quit completely, It’s best to uninstall the game and delete all the files. There’s nothing more boring than going back and re-doing everything you’ve done once before. Try to avoid discussing games with peers.
  • Reconnect with close people – You’re friends and family will be glad that you’re wanting to make a positive change to your life. Offline interaction is an important necessity for all humans, it helps by lowering stress, anxiety and depression.
  • Replace the habit – Find another hobby that’s you could do instead, something perhaps more active or social that you could make friends from.
  • Budget – Limit how much money you spend on gaming, how many consoles you own and how many new games you need. If you don’t have an endless supply of new games and expansions you’re going get bored and quit eventually.
  • Seek help –If you’re struggling to cope with these responsibilities on your own, seeking a mental health professional is not something to be ashamed off.

Are video games really that bad for you?

Just like anything people do for fun it depends, watching movies, getting drunk, gambling; if there’s a lifestyle choice you make that’s able to provide a mental escape from reality it must be done in moderation or it could begin to create an addiction.

If you want to spend a few hours in another world, remember to keep a perspective on the other things that are going on in your life.

Video games in the public eye

Video games are repeatedly exaggerated in the media as one of the root causes for crime and violence. It’s often debated on the controversy that surrounds them.

It’s easy to think of gamers as a bunch of antisocial addicts who sit in front of a screen all day doing little to nothing else. The addiction is also publicly renowned for the potential of cyber bullying.

There are many misconceptions about gamers from the majority of the population, which is partly due to people not properly understanding why the hobby is so attractive.

The main reason people look down on gaming is because they don’t see it as a community and just like any other community, there can be growth, unity and a sense of belonging.

Is too much gaming bad for you?

While gaming is not damaging your body in an irreversible way, or physically harming others in the process. It’s easy to forget that the addiction is real, and some of the most negative effects can arrive from the loss of time, and opportunities squandered.

When users give up on their education because they would rather stay home and game – this is something that can cause a number of problems further down the line, having a permanent effect on their future.

Likewise with losing a job, if the player does not have a healthy amount of savings or support around them, then a slippery slope to homelessness could soon be knocking.

The addiction might cause too many problems for some families to deal with; resulting in teens having to leave their home at a young age, which could lead to similar consequences.

Losing out on work, education, or ties with loved ones are all very serious issues and that is why it has been re-classified as an addiction.

What is it like to have a video game addiction?

Having a video game addiction can start out just like any other addiction where the sufferer may not even think they’re addicted, in their mind it’s just a tool to pass the time while simply not acknowledging other commitments.

You grow to crave it more and more and develop a tolerance for it, such that it takes more of it to fill the void, until you are willing to let anything in your life slip away to get it.

There’s a fine line between passion and addiction, and when you let your passion drive you, that’s where your addiction begins.

The addiction will become isolating, chaotic, shameful, and damaging to relationships sooner than you think, and will continue on like that for as long as you allow it to.

Eventually you will have no place to be, no place to go, and no friends or family to meet. As if you’ve reversed everything that you have been working towards and are left behind with nothing.

The World of Hikikomori – Japan

Video game addiction and isolation has become a much larger problem in Japan, which is famous for the social phenomenon of the Hikikomori.

The term was coined by the Japanese government, Hiku meaning to draw or pull, while komoru means to seclude oneself.

It is used to describe over half a million people, aged 15 to 39 who refuse to leave their homes and seek extreme degrees of confinement; many of which find comfort in playing online video games, and spend months or sometimes years at a time in isolation.

The Hikikomori don’t study or go to work but voluntarily lock themselves within their rooms as a way to avoid the social pressures of the outside world or participating in society.

They rarely venture outside to get food at a convenience store or communicate with family and usually have few to no friends in the real world.

How does this happen?

The withdrawal from society starts gradually, affected people may appear unhappy, talk less, lose their friends or become shy and insecure.

Even though these symptoms have appeared it has not necessary been linked with another psychological problem as a principal source.

By their late twenties the condition has become a much bigger problem resembling more of a mental illness; anxiety, mood disorders, depression, agoraphobia and panic attacks have all become more prevalent.

The affected feel helplessly trapped within the four walls of their own home, glued to their seats (or sometimes in the bedrooms in which they grew up in), embarrassed by the thought of ever stepping outside again.

There are some cases of hikikomori who are now in their 40s spending the last 20 years in isolation. Thet are referred to as the ‘first generation’, and have a link to suicide much higher than the average in the country.

An addiction may start out small but can lead to a very dark place if you allow it to. Watch the documentary below to find out more.

Hikikomori Loveless: What causes young Japanese hermits to give up on real life

Can video games kill you?

Playing video games for too long can in fact kill you, there have been several publicized, though rare, incidents of gamers dying in the middle of extremely long sessions.

These deaths are most commonly associated with having a Pulmonary Embolism, from sitting in the same position for an extended period of time or heart failure, stemming from exhaustion.

Video game addiction is not normally a direct cause of an immediate death but more likely to have an affect indirectly leading to a premature death.

If you decide to play video games for a long period of time such as attending a gaming marathon or three-day binge remember to take frequent breaks, move and stretch your legs or go for a short walk to prevent the risk of a blockage.

Treatment for more serious cases?

Players with more serious cases of gaming addiction might want to consider enroling on a specailised therapy program, implemented similar to users of drugs and alcohol. Choosing this route and dealing with professionals might come at quite a heavy financial cost compared to self-treatment.

Counselling with a Psychologist

A number of different types of counselling exist to help video game addicts explore and address their behaviours, this can include one-on-one, family or parent-only counselling. Psychologists can treat, help and motivate a change related to any issues the user faces.

Addiction Rehab Programs

Designed to help those manage cravings and withdrawal symptoms, address the root cause of their addiction, and ultimately learn to live a sober life.

Often these are 1 month to 3 month programmes where the patient will have to move and live in a different environment without acess to their electronic devices.

Activities may include develop healthier interpersonal relationships, setting life goals and group counselling with other patients who consider themselves “addicted” to video games.

Inpatient’ and ‘Outpatient’ programmes

Inpatient programmes are similar to rehab in which the patient must move to another location but differ by being more hospital based.

Twelve step programs, around-the-clock medical care and group meetings are provided by healthcare professionals, designed to be an intensive, full-time therapeutic regimen.

Outpatient treatment allows patients to continue living at home and possibly continue working or going to school. The patient will likely meet with a therapist in a clinic and arrange a schedule as required.

Seeking Online help

If you have any problems you might wish to address or talk about, joining an online support group such as Gamers Anonymous can help to aid any problems that may be caused from excessive video game playing:

For more help – visit the ‘Stop Gaming‘ community of reddit. A place dedicated to those struggling with compulsive gaming or video game addiction.

Click here for a list of 12 Tragic deaths caused by Video games.

What are the most addictive games you’ve played? Please comment if you found this post useful.


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