While addiction is more commonly associated with substances such as illegal drugs, prescription medication, and alcohol, it is possible to become addicted to almost anything. Many people in the UK are addicted to activities such as gambling, shopping, and sex while others are addicted to food or dieting. However, another activity that is becoming a problem for a large number of people, particularly children and teenagers, is gaming.

What is Gaming Addiction?

Despite many thinking there is no harm in gaming, for those who are addicted, gaming can have serious consequences. With so many realistic graphics and storylines, video games these days have become something that children and teens often become obsessed with. Many would rather play games than interact with real people, and many teenagers’ social lives revolve around playing online games.

Not every person who plays games will become addicted. It is possible for people to play video games for a certain period of time each day or week, but for others, their every waking moment is consumed by playing video games or thoughts of playing.

Addiction can be defined as an uncontrollable need for a particular substance or activity. When someone is addicted to something, he or she will neglect other areas of their life and will continue with their behaviour even though they are fully aware that to do so will cause harmful consequences in their lives.

Signs of a Gaming Addiction

If you are worried about a loved one suffering from a gaming addiction, you should look out for the following physiological or psychological signs:

  • Preoccupation with gaming to the point where he or she is agitated when away from it. Gaming addicts may talk about a game continuously or may seem disinterested in other things.
  • Downplaying the amount of time that he or she is spending playing games. Those with a gaming addiction may lie about the amount of time spent playing games or may come up with excuses as to why he or she needs to be online.
  • Gaming addicts are often unable to limit the amount of time they spend playing games. They may plan to spend an hour online but realise hours later that they are still playing. Gaming addicts tend to get so absorbed in the game that they lose all track of time and, as a result, neglect other areas of their lives.
  • Avoiding spending time with family members and friends because this will take away from gaming time.
  • Neglecting personal hygiene, again because this could reduce the amount of time available for game play.
  • Becoming defensive when questioned about the amount of time spent playing games. Many gaming addicts will be in denial about their problem and will believe concerned family members are exaggerating the problem.
  • Extreme fatigue because of not getting enough sleep due to too many hours spent playing games.
  • Headaches or migraines due to eye strain or intense concentration on a game.
  • Carpal tunnel syndrome from excessive use of a controller or mouse.

Consequences of a Gaming Addiction

Because video games are considered harmless by many people, gaming addiction is not really understood. Nevertheless, gaming addiction can have serious consequences, both physically and mentally. Those with an addiction to gaming may develop a number of physical health issues, which could include:

  • migraines
  • carpal tunnel syndrome
  • trouble sleeping
  • backache
  • poor personal hygiene.

Nonetheless, it is not just physical problems that occur among those with a gaming addiction. There are a number of social consequences too. Those who become preoccupied with gaming may become isolated and unable to interact with the real world. This can affect this person’s ability to develop strong relationships in the future.

Adults with a gaming addiction may find that their personal relationships suffer. Married gaming addicts will experience a strain in the relationship with their spouse. Children of gaming addicts may also feel neglected and suffer emotional problems as a result.

Those who become obsessed with gaming to the point where they have nothing else to talk about may find that others simply do not want to be around them. They are unable to sustain healthy relationships with others and may descend even further into the virtual world of gaming.

Gaming addiction can also affect the prospects of teenagers. Those who spend all of their free time playing games may neglect their studies, which can result in a poor performance at school. This will, in turn, affect their ability to secure a good job.

Treating Gaming Addiction

Here at Addiction Helper, we understand the serious impact that gaming addiction can have on individuals. Treatment for gaming addiction is similar to treatment for any other type of addiction. The organisations we work with include private residential clinics, local support groups, charities, and the NHS.

Treatment for gaming addiction may require a period of abstinence as well as activities that force the individual to learn how to live in the real world. When it comes to teenage gaming addiction, it may be necessary to work on their social skills because these teenagers are often unable to communicate comfortably with other individuals. They have spent so much time living in a virtual world that they are unable to interact with people in real time.

The difficulty with treating gaming addicts is that technology is such as huge part of everyday life. It would be almost impossible for gaming addicts to avoid technology altogether, so they must learn how to use it responsibly.

Thankfully, there are many counsellors and therapists with expertise in helping those with gaming addictions to overcome their illnesses. If you or someone you love is struggling because of an addiction to gaming, contact us here at Addiction Helper for advice and support on how to tackle the problem. We are here to help and are waiting to hear from you.