Adults can get just as hooked on video games as children and teenagers.
In fact, “addiction to digital and video gaming” is the latest addition to the World Health Organisation’s reference bible of recognisable and diagnosable diseases (4).
But what exactly is digital and video game addiction?
Video Game Addiction: A Definition
Digital and video game addiction can be defined as a compulsive or uncontrolled use of video games, where the urge is of such an extent that it leads to various issues in the individual’s life – whether they be adult or child.
This addiction is of increasing concern for parents and educators of children, as video games are now much more accessible to children than in years gone by, and video game creators actively target children in many of the games they create (3).
Many counselling experts feel that the signs and symptoms of video game addiction mimic those of disorders such as exercise and sex addiction. However, please note that a gamer who plays for long periods of time and frequently is not necessarily an addict.
Signs of Video Game Addiction
A person who is at risk of being called a digital and video gaming addict will likely have difficulty with focusing on activities other than gaming. They cannot focus on work, school or studies, withdraw from society and will not have a social life – most of their friends will be online “friends”.
A person that is addicted – or at risk of becoming addicted to gaming – will start to have hygiene issues. It may also lead to physical health issues, mental health issues and impact on work performance.
Some major tell tale signs of digital and video game addiction are:
- When the individual feels compelled to play games more and more over time;
- The urge to play games become stronger because they cannot resist the desire to play games.
- The gamer show signs of irritability, anxiousness and even depression if unable to play games.
Some added signs of video game addiction are:
- Changes in weight;
- Changes in sleep patterns;
- Mood swings;
- Change in social life – such as avoiding friends and family members;
- Skipping meals;
- Poor work or academic performance; and
- Lying about time spent playing games (2).
Impacts of Video Game Addiction
If the video game addict is an adult, like any addiction it can begin to take a toll on every aspect of their lives – from their career to their intimate relationship, their health and wellbeing.
In children, playing digital and video games may have consequences such as:
- Increased risk of becoming isolated socially;
- Teaching the young child wrong values;
- Causing confusion between reality and fantasy;
- Impacting mental health – in the annals of general psychiatry, it is stated that teenagers who play more than one hour of video games per day, show an increase in symptoms of ADHD;
- Health issues eg obesity, video induced seizures, pastoral issues, muscular and skeletal disorders such as Tendonitis, nerve compression and carpal tunnel syndrome;
- Learning offensive language and behaviour from other online players;
- Developing impulsive behaviour and attention disorders;
- Being vulnerable to online dangers from adults posing as kids (5).
Treatment for Digital and Video Game Addiction
One of the most effective ways to treat a person who is addicted to digital and video game addiction is through the use of Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT). CBT is a proven method for changing the thoughts and habits that add to the unhealthy gaming habits, and modifying the individual’s actions and behaviour to reduce the amount of time spent playing video games.
The most effective ways to help somebody that is addicted to playing video games are:
- One on one therapy with a counsellor: unfortunately, video game counselling specialists are rare.
- Family Therapy: in family therapy, the counsellor will focus on modifying the family systems and family dynamics, and setting and maintaining healthy boundaries within the family of the gamer.
- Wilderness Therapy: removing the individual from the environments where digital and video games are accessible. This method can be very expensive and may not be locally available (1).
Over the past few years I have worked with not only children and teenagers that are addicted to digital and video games, but also adult men in their thirties and late forties. In many cases the adult’s addiction led to marriage issues, as well as emotional and physical separation from their spouse and children. Some even lost their jobs due to not going to work as regularly as they should have.
The good news is that treatment is effective, although it does takes time. As with other forms of addiction, the addict needs to admit to the addiction, and must be willing to get help. In many cases family interventions are needed to make the addict realise what the impact of the addiction is having on his loved ones.
If you or your loved one is showing signs of digital and video game addiction, please do not ignore it. Video game addiction is a very real problem and will not go away unless it is addressed and properly treated.
Author: Corey Human, B Th, M Counselling. Corey Human has nearly 20 years’ experience working with teenage boys and young men at risk or struggling with self esteem, video game addiction and other problems. He provides counselling to adolescents, adults, couples, parents and families in both English and Afrikaans.
To make an appointment try Online Booking. Alternatively, you can call M1 Psychology Brisbane on (07) 3067 9129
- Conrad, B. (2012). Video Game Addiction: Signs, Problems, Risks and Treatment. [online] Tech Addiction. Available at: http://www.techaddiction.ca/video-game-addiction.html [Accessed 19 Jun. 2018].
- Cornell, R. (2018). Helping Compulsive Gamers and Video Game Addiction. [online] Project Know; Understanding Addiction. Available at: https://www.projectknow.com/research/video-game-addiction/ [Accessed 19 Jun. 2018].
- Hartney, E. (2018). What is Video Game Addiction. [online] Verywellmind. Available at: https://www.verywellmind.com/what-is-video-game-addiction-22333 [Accessed 19 Jun. 2018].
- News 7. (2018). ‘Gaming disorder’ diagnosed as mental health condition. [online] Available at: https://au.news.yahoo.com/gaming-disorder-diagnosed-mental-health-condition-212931076.html [Accessed 19 Jun. 2018].
- Tumbokon, R. (2018). 25+ Positive and Negative Effects of Video Games. [online] Raise Smart Kid. Available at: https://www.raisesmartkid.com/3-to-6-years-old/4-articles/34-the-good-and-bad-effects-of-video-games [Accessed 19 Jun. 2018].