August 8th, 2023
Computer games have long been blamed for everything from bad eyesight to school violence. But in recent years, it is another issue that has started to concern parents, teachers and medical experts: gaming addiction. It is hard for experts to know the exact number of people, but what is clear is that the rates of both children and adults addicted to computer games are on the rise. If you are struggling with gaming addiction, it is important to know that there is help available with many gaming rehab centres now providing comprehensive treatment and aftercare programmes for gaming addiction.
We discuss everything you need to know about gaming addiction including its causes, symptoms, and treatment options as well as key statistics and advice for loved ones.
What is gaming addiction?
Gaming addiction is a compulsive need to play computer games even though it leads to negative consequences in a person’s life. Gaming addiction is also known as internet gaming disorder or pathological gaming.
As with all addictions and behavioural addictions, gaming addiction is classified as a mental health disorder by the World Health Organisation (WHO). This means that it is a serious issue that can have negative consequences on your life if not treated properly.
Many people enjoy playing computer games so it is very important to understand that not everyone who plays is addicted to gaming. For most people, computer games can be a great way to destress, socialise and have fun. Gaming only becomes a problem when it starts to interfere with your life in a negative way.
If you feel like your gaming is starting to impact you negatively, get in touch with UKAT today for gaming addiction help.
Why is playing computer games addictive?
Addiction experts have suggested that playing certain games is just as addictive to certain people as drugs are to others. As one behavioural specialist, Lorrine Marer, explains:
“Gaming” is like heroin. Once you are hooked, it’s hard to get unhooked.”
This is because any addiction at its core is the same whether it’s to drug addiction, alcohol addiction, gambling addiction, sex addiction, or gaming addiction. It all comes down to personal underlying triggers and causes and the reward mechanisms in the brain. Playing computer games gives you a short-term high which can make you feel good about yourself or distract you from something unpleasant in your life. Ultimately, you can start to chase that high until you develop dependence and ultimately become addicted to gaming.
How does gaming addiction develop?
Gaming addiction is not the same as just excessively playing computer games. It is a multi-faceted condition which can be caused by a number of different factors.
One of the most common causes of gaming addiction is an underlying mental health disorder such as depression, anxiety, or ADHD. These disorders can lead to people using computer games as a way to cope with their symptoms. While this may work in the short term, it can quickly develop into an addiction and actually exacerbate the symptoms of the underlying mental health disorder.
Other causes of gaming addiction include social isolation, boredom, and a need for escapism. Gaming can provide a diversion from reality for people who are struggling with problems in their life and can also provide the social interaction that some people crave but aren’t getting in their real life.
Whatever the reason, regular, excessive gaming can lead to dependence. This means that you feel like you need to play games in order to function normally and this is when you are at serious risk of becoming addicted to gaming.
What are the signs of game addiction?
Addiction can be a very sneaky and deceptive disorder. It can be hard to spot the signs and symptoms of gaming addiction, especially in the early stages. This is because people will often deny that they have a problem as gaming is such a popular hobby. You may think that your gaming is in control or have friends who play as much (or even more than) you.
If you are concerned about your gaming or a loved one has voiced concerns, here are some questions to ask yourself:
- Am I spending more time gaming than I used to?
- Do I neglect my responsibilities in order to play games?
- Do I lie to people about how much time I spend playing games?
- Am I preoccupied with gaming when I’m not playing?
- Do I play games in order to escape from my problems?
- Do I feel irritable or anxious when I try to cut down on my gaming?
If you answered yes to any of these questions, it’s possible that you have a gaming addiction. Get in touch with UKAT today and we will explain the gaming addiction help available to you.
How does gaming addiction negatively affect your life?
The most obvious way that gaming addiction negatively affects your life is by taking up so much time that it interferes with other important activities. This can include work, school, and spending time with family and friends. There have even been cases of parents neglecting their children to the extent that they have starved to death.
Being addicted to gaming can also lead to financial problems as some people spend large amounts of money on computer games, gaming equipment, and in-game purchases. Other negative consequences can include social isolation, sleep problems, weight gain, and carpal tunnel syndrome.
Gaming addiction in the UK
The UK is one of the most game-loving countries in the world with over half of the population playing computer games regularly. This is not necessarily a bad thing but it does mean that there are more people at risk of developing a gaming addiction. In fact, there are an estimated 700,000 to 1,000,000 people addicted to gaming in the UK.
While this is clearly a serious issue, it’s important to remember that not everyone who plays computer games is addicted to them. In fact, most people who play computer games don’t have a problem with it. It’s only when gaming starts to interfere with your life in a negative way that it becomes an addiction.
Myths about gaming addiction
- You can only become addicted to computer games if you play them all the time…
As with other addictive substances or behaviours, computer games can be addictive even if you have only played them a few times.
- Gaming is legal so gaming addiction cannot be a serious condition…
Just because something is legal does not mean that it can’t have negative consequences. Gaming addiction is a serious condition and can be just as addictive as any illicit substance or behaviour.
- Only young people can get addicted to gaming…
While it’s true that most gamers are young, anyone of any age can develop a gaming addiction. In fact, we have treated many people in their 30s, 40s, and 50s for this condition.
Treatment for gaming addiction
Effective gaming addiction treatment involves two main stages; therapy and aftercare. Therapy can be provided as both outpatient and inpatient treatment.
Outpatient gaming rehab
Outpatient treatment involves attending regular group therapy sessions with a counsellor or therapist. Some people think this is the best choice as it allows you to keep up with your responsibilities at home and work. However, it is generally considered to be less effective as you will still have access to your games, friends who you usually play with and your everyday stresses which can trigger a gaming relapse.
Inpatient gaming rehab
Inpatient treatment is when you stay in a residential rehab centre for the duration of your treatment. This is a much more immersive and effective form of treatment as you will be away from your games and the other triggers and temptations in your life. You will also have 24/hour support from a team of experts who will help you through the tough times.
At UKAT, we provide a comprehensive inpatient treatment gaming programme which will provide you with the tools and support you need to overcome your addiction. Our programmes consist of both individual and group therapy, as well as CBT (cognitive behavioural therapy) and 12-step programme. We also offer a number of holistic therapies such as yoga and meditation to help you relax and de-stress.
Once you have completed your rehab treatment programme, we provide aftercare which will help you to stay on the road to long-term recovery.
Advice for loved ones
Spotting gaming addiction in a loved one can be difficult because playing computer games is such a popular pastime. However, there are some signs that you can look out for which may indicate that your loved one has a problem such as:
- Spending more and more time playing games
- Ignoring family and friends in favour of gaming
- Missing work or school because of gaming
- Giving up hobbies or interests in order to game
- Lying about how much time is spent playing games
If you think that someone you love might have a gaming addiction, it can be tough to know what to do. The most important thing is to be supportive and understanding and not to enable their addiction by making excuses for them or buying them games or online gaming credit.
It’s also important to encourage them to seek professional help as soon as possible. UKAT has a team of experienced addiction therapy counsellors who can provide support and advice if you are unsure about how to approach them.
Can gaming addiction be cured?
While there is no “cure” for gaming addiction in the traditional sense of the word, the good news is that it is treatable. There are many people who have overcome their addiction and gone on to lead happy and healthy lives. With the right treatment, it is possible to break the cycle of addiction and make a full recovery.
If you or someone you love is struggling with gaming addiction, please get in touch with UKAT today. We can provide you with the gaming addiction help and support you need to get your life back on track.
Frequently asked questions
How many hours of gaming constitutes addiction?
There is no definitive answer to this question as it depends on the individual. Some people can play games for hours without any problems, while others may develop an addiction after only a few hours of gaming.
What are the most addictive games on the market?
Again, there is no definitive answer to this question as different people can become addicted to different games. Some of the most commonly cited examples include “World of Warcraft”, “Fortnite”, “Call of Duty” and “Minecraft” but as these are the most popular games, it would follow that they are also the ones that more people are addicted to.
Do I need rehab for gaming addiction?
Rehab is the best way to treat gaming addiction because it provides you with a safe and structured environment in which to recover where you can focus on getting better.