Do you or someone you know play a lot of video games? Probably! The Pew Research Center says that “Two-thirds of those aged 18 to 29 say they play video games, and 22 percent say the term “gamer” describes them well.
But how much gaming is too much? Video games, like most things in life, should be consumed in moderation. Even the bravest heroes must take a break now and then from saving Azeroth, or adventuring through the land of Skyrim.
There is some evidence that indicates playing video games can improve a variety of important cognitive and developmental skills that will help the person later in life. Research has shown that gamers tend to be more creative, have improved reflexes, and can apply strategic and critical thinking skills to a variety of unique situations.
That being said, it is important to understand the difference between normal and addictive video game behaviors. Addictive video game habits can drastically lower the quality of an excessive gamer’s lifestyle.
When Internet Gaming Gets Out of Control
It’s not so much about how often you game, but how you adapt your lifestyle choices to revolve around video games. Some players exhibit behaviors in relation to video games that are hallmarks of addiction. If a person plays videos games many hours every day, neglects school, work, and other important responsibilities; ignores personal hygiene, healthy eating and exercise needs; has extremely disrupted sleep patterns; and has an increasingly deteriorating social life, these may be signs of a larger problem. Video game addiction often co-exists with other disorders such as drug addiction, anxiety, and depression. Some also point out that video game addiction and internet pornography addiction is often co-occurring.
Internet Gaming Disorder is not officially listed in the DSM-5 (a commonly used guidebook for psychiatrists and psychologists), but the American Psychological Association (APA) has developed nine criteria to determine when it becomes a problem, and you need to seek professional help:
- Pre-occupation. Do you think about video games all the time, even when you’re not currently playing? Are you spending your days at school or work thinking about when you can play again?
- Withdrawal. Do you get a bad case of the grumps (i.e. irritable, unhappy, and stressed) when you try and take a break from gaming, or can’t play at that moment?
- Tolerance. Do you feel like you have to keep playing for longer and longer amounts of time, just to get any enjoyment out of your games? Do you find yourself getting bored easily with games that you once liked, and constantly need to play more intense or exciting games?
- Reduce/Stop. Do you want to quit gaming for a while, but are unable to?
- Give up other activities. When’s the last time you hung out with your friends or went to a social gathering? Have you stopped doing other activities that you used to enjoy, or stopped talking to your friends, because of gaming?
- Continue despite problems. Do you keep on playing video games all the time, even though you are fully aware and understand all the negative consequences it has caused in your life?
- Deceive/cover up. Do you lie to your friends and family about how much you game, or try and hide it from them?
- Escape adverse moods. Do you game to escape, forget about, or relieve personal problems and feelings?
- Risk or lose relationships/opportunities. Have you lost or are at-risk of losing significant personal relationships? Are you about to lose (if you haven’t already) an important job, educational, or career opportunity? Do you feel a lack of motivation to look for jobs or opportunities?
Get Help For Video Game Addiction
None of the information presented here is meant to alarm or scare you. It is intended to help you understand how serious gaming addiction can be, how it can signal deeper and more complex trauma and psychological issues, and when you should seek help. If you are concerned that someone you know is playing video games too much, the first step is initiating communication and explaining your reasons or concerns. You should understand that gaming addiction often results from other psychological issues the person in question may be experiencing, like social anxiety or depression.
If you or the addicted person in your life does not get help when they need it, they could lose out on important career, educational, or social opportunities that would help them fully function in their lives and relationships.
If you are concerned that you or someone you care about is addicted to video games, don’t hesitate to call us at 855-333-6075, or Contact Us.