A small percentage of people that play video games will end up doing so to levels that will hurt themselves and those close to them. This might be a conventional story of a young man sat at home compulsively playing World of Warcraft. Equally it could be somebody completely different losing hours of their day on their mobile phone playing Candy Crush Saga. In these situations the gaming is typically an expression unhappiness or powerlessness – something that counselling can work to relieve.
You will be most likely reading this because you either are an excessive gamer yourself or you have a concern for an excessive gamer that you live with. I have addressed this page to the latter group, though everything said is just as relevant to those looking to seek help for themselves.
How to Recognise Video Game Addiction?
There is no official recognition of the term ‘video game addiction’, at least not as yet. I use the term here, though I stress that I do not support the idea that those who are addicted are unable to make a change, which is a common belief about addiction.
It is important to make a distinction between someone who genuinely enjoys playing a lot of video games and someone that has an unhealthy compulsion towards video games. Simply playing for hours on end is not an indicator of video game addiction in itself. It could simply be that the gamer gets huge enjoyment from gaming and there is nothing wrong with that.
The symptoms that should alert you to a possible video game addiction are as follows:
- The gamer thinks about gaming all or most of the time. When they are not gaming they are talking about games, thinking about games and looking at game reviews or videos of games.
- The gamer seems to change moods when they are playing a game, typically becoming either numb and expressionless or manic and over-involved when playing.
- After periods of limiting or stopping gameplay, the gamer inevitably starts playing again to the same problematic levels. It is as if they can’t help stop themselves from gaming in an unhealthy way.
- Whenever the gamer is forced away from playing games they become aggressive, moody or antagonistic, sometimes even getting the sweats or shakes.
- The gamer seems to have to play for longer and longer in order to get the same enjoyment out of games that they used to. An increasing proportion of their gaming time is spent chasing these old feelings.
- Conflict seems to arise out of the time spent gaming, often when other responsibilities impose themselves on gaming or vice versa. The gamer seems to be increasingly at odds with others offline.
If nearly all of the above symptoms are present then it is worth taking action. This is certainly not a sure sign of video game addiction, but it may well be a useful indicator that there is a problem that needs addressing.
If it is yourself that is potentially playing to problematic levels then you may want to take the following test, which uses the above criteria, to see if you are potentially addicted to gaming and could benefit from some help. The test is 14 questions long and, while the data is stored for research purposes, it is all done so anonymously:
Possible Causes of Video Game Addiction
In my experience, and in the eyes of a number of experts, video game addiction is typically one of the ways in which people will manage a lack in another area of their life. They could be using games to escape their sense of failure in social or romantic relationships, chasing a sense of power when they are otherwise feeling powerless or using the games to numb depressing or anxious thoughts that occur when they become bored.
What You Can Do Now
While a complete end to video gaming is unlikely to be the answer in the long-run, a break from technology and screens can be helpful. I would recommend a period of 72 hours whereby no references to gaming can be accessed, including gaming sites, video sites and magazines.
Taking these steps will have a powerful impact as you are temporarily knocking out the gamer’s method for dealing with the difficulties of life. Therefore I would recommend that in doing this, you plan in plenty of activities that will fill the time in a fun and distracting way. Ideally, get away from all screens, involve yourself with nature in some way and plan in a few physical activities.
How Counselling can Help
If the above doesn’t improve the situation or proves too difficult to do then I offer a parent consultancy service in which we have a detailed look at your situation and how best to make improvements.
From here we might decide that the best option is for your child to have individual counselling, or even for you to seek out a therapist, such as myself, to see as a family. Most importantly you will come away with a positive direction to move toward. Click on the button below to find out more about this service:
If you would like to discuss counselling in Brighton or Hove then please call me on 07714 324542 or email me at email@example.com. I also offer online counselling for those who would appreciate the increased privacy or are unable to access the practice.