Kids play games. That’s a good thing, right? Even adults need some time to relax and enjoy leisure activities that may include some sort of gaming. The problem is that some people are susceptible to gaming addiction in the same way others are susceptible to becoming dependent on alcohol. The fact of the matter is that gaming addiction is every bit as real as any other kind of addiction.
Society has thus far been slow to accept gaming addiction because we so often equate addiction with chemical substances. But when you compare the obsessive behaviours of compulsive gamers with the behaviours exhibited by drug and gambling addicts, quite a few similarities arise. Here at UKAT, we are not afraid to recognise gaming addiction for what it is.
Alternate World of Gaming
The internet has been a very good tool for worldwide culture since its commercial introduction back in the late 1980s and early 90s. But with everything good there is also the potential for bad. This is certainly true where online activity is concerned. Some estimates suggest that more than 46 million Britons of all ages may be addicted to internet use in some way, shape or form. Gaming and social media account for the lion’s share of the problem.
The challenge with video games is that they offer players an opportunity to act out in ways that would never be acceptable in the real world. Players can take on alternate personalities that let them be who they want to be, at least in their virtual world, even though they could never be the people in real life. This capability is not a good thing for those who are easily obsessed.
According to experts, some of the most addictive online games are:
Fortnite Battle Royal
World of Warcraft
Call of Duty
The worst kinds of games leading to addiction are those classified as massive multi-player online role-playing games (MMORPGs). Why? Because these entail a number of things that make total dedication to the game necessary if one wants to be successful. For example, these role-playing games involve an ongoing story that is never quite finished. The story evolves with every play, encouraging players to return time and again to keep the story going.
That said, even less intense games like Angry Birds and Solitaire can lead to gaming addiction by giving players something to do during their downtime.
Signs of Gaming Addiction
There are both physical and psychological signs that a person is suffering from gaming addiction. Some of these signs can also be caused by other kinds of stress, so it is important to look at the complete picture in order to determine whether someone has a gaming problem or not. The generally accepted signs of gaming addiction are as follows:
Unusual preoccupation with the idea of getting back online to play
Self-imposed isolation in order to guarantee uninterrupted play
Feelings of irritability and restlessness when not playing games
Lying about the amount of time spent gaming
Persistent headaches caused by too much screen time
Carpal tunnel syndrome caused by excessive use of gaming devices
Diminished personal hygiene and poor diet
Persistent fatigue due to lack of sleep.
If someone in your household is spending hours at a time in front of the computer or gaming console, this does not necessarily mean he or she is suffering from gaming addiction. But that amount of time coupled with the signs listed above indicates a problem. If there is any chance an addiction exists, early detection and treatment are always best.
Some addiction experts have suggested that playing certain games (like Fortnite) is more addictive to the gaming addict than cocaine or heroin is to the drug addict. This makes a lot of sense when you consider the reward mechanism attached to addiction.
Lorrine Marer – a British behavioural specialist had this to say (1):
A person addicted to heroin or cocaine enjoys a certain amount of pleasure every time he or she uses. That pleasure is a direct result of reward centres in the brain being activated. The same thing applies to gaming. What is different with gaming is that the rewards are more frequent and tangible. Where the drug act merely ‘feels good’ after taking drugs, the gamer enjoys additional rewards.
The gamer enjoys the adrenaline rush of completing certain tasks; he or she is challenged to move to the next level; the gamer is rewarded for beating opponents or defeating enemies. With gaming addiction, the rewards just keep piling up with every level completed. There is literally no end in sight.
Gaming Addiction Treatment
Treating gaming addiction is similar to treating other behavioural addictions like gambling, sex, and general internet addiction. It starts by diagnosing the seriousness of the situation based on observed signs and symptoms. From there, therapists devise bespoke treatment plans that are successful if followed to the letter.
Treatment is based on the following six principles:
Reducing the amount of time spent gaming
Teaching addicts to recognise their own addictive behaviour
Helping addicts understand what triggers compulsive gaming
Helping addicts understand the harm their addiction is causing
Teaching addicts strategies to prevent future compulsive behaviour
Teaching families how to help and support the gaming addict.
The goal in treating gaming addiction is to eventually arrive at a place of total abstinence. As we say in the arena of substance abuse and addiction, abstinence is the only real cure. We believe the same applies to gaming. Only when a person completely stops engaging in the activity that triggers the rewards of compulsive behaviour can he or she truly overcome the addiction.
The team here at UKAT is ready to help you with gaming addiction. Rest assured that we evaluate each client individually before recommending appropriate treatment facilities and programmes. We work with treatment providers all over the UK to provide our clients with the best hope of overcoming their addictions.