Video games can be just as addictive as drugs or alcohol, and excessive gaming can throw a wrench in a person's future. By knowing what signs to look for and setting healthy rules, you can help stop video game addiction from advancing to the next level.
Video Games Aren't All Bad
Video games in moderation can have a variety of benefits. They can serve as common ground for new friendships, challenge the mind, and help people unwind from a stressful day at school or work. They can even bring people together for a greater cause, like the annual Summer Games Done Quick (SGDQ), where gamers around the world raise money for cancer research.
How Can Video Games Become Addictive?
If it involves a reward, it can become an addiction. In the case of video games, the joy of defeating an opponent or unlocking a secret triggers the release of dopamine (the "feel-good" chemical) in the brain, just like drugs, alcohol, and exercise do. These good feelings essentially teach the brain that the activity is beneficial to you.
Although video gaming rarely becomes as addictive as, say, heroin, it can manifest itself in similar ways to a drug. Some studies found that 10 to 15 percent of gamers show symptoms that match the World Health Organization's rubric for addiction.
What's unique about video games is the method of achieving reward. Players must often invest a great deal of time and effort to feel accomplished. Problems arise when this cycle of effort and reward takes the place of your loved one's educational, professional, and social endeavors.
Signs and Symptoms of Video Game Addiction
While it's difficult to pinpoint the line between recreation and addiction, certain signs and symptoms may indicate that your loved one needs a break from the screen. If you notice any of the behaviors below, it may be time to talk to your loved one or seek professional treatment.
- Mimicking foul language, dressing inappropriately, or acting aggressively
- Unlawful behaviors such as theft, vandalism, and assault - core components of many mature video games
- Skipping school or work to play video games
- Spending long hours locked in a room without outside interaction
- Sudden changes in attitude or appearance
- Skipping important obligations, such as family gatherings
When It's Time to Step In
If video gaming has disrupted your loved one's life and the lives of others, it's time to take action. Before talking to your loved one, know what to expect. He or she may deny that their video gaming is a problem, claim that others play just as much, or quickly agree to play less just to dismiss the issue. Make sure you and your loved one understand each other clearly and work together to create a plan for change. You might agree to limit gaming to weekends only or permit longer sessions if your loved one attends to more important obligations first.
If you don't notice improvements, or the situation worsens, individualized addiction treatment can help. A professional treatment center can help your loved one overcome video game addiction and reconnect with friends and family. With group counseling, team building exercises, life skills development, and luxurious amenities, your loved one will have all the resources and support needed to regain control of life.