It was less than five years ago at a dinner with friends that I got in the middle of a heated debate about video game addiction. One friend thought it was ridiculous, just something the addiction industry was pushing to try to make money. Another friend countered by retelling stories about people who had spent days in front of the TV playing video games without a break. There was a story about a man so addicted that he didn’t leave his chair for three days and died from developing deep vein thrombosis (DVT). She shared another story about parents who found their 9-year-old daughter sitting on a urine soaked cushion playing “Fortnite” because she didn’t want to take the time to go to the bathroom.
The stories go on and on. Children and adults drop out of school, stop going to work, and avoid socializing except through video games. Their sole focus becomes the game, and when it gets taken away, they can turn angry and violent. Sound familiar? These are classic symptoms of addiction.
Symptoms of Video Game Addiction
If you’re concerned about yourself or a loved one, here are some symptoms to look out for:
- Obsession with the game
- Lying about the amount of time or money spent on gaming
- Neglecting social life
- Losing track of time while gaming
- Experiencing bouts of anxiety and anger, particularly when not playing video games
- Changes in personal hygiene
According to recent studies, gaming addiction causes similar changes in the pleasure center of the brain as those seen in long-term drug addicts. A person may plan to sit down for an hour but unintentionally continue playing for 4 – 5 hours without stopping.
At first, gaming increases dopamine levels in the brain. Over time, those addicted to video games will experience normal dopamine levels while gaming, and lowered levels while not gaming. This leads to dependency and addiction, much like drug or alcohol addiction, with similar effects on the brain. Increased play time means increased dopamine levels in the brain. The gaming addict may not notice the need for more and more game time as it grows slowly over time.
Dropped out of high school at 15 to play video games
In this Tedx Talk, Cam Adair discusses his video game addiction, the damage it caused to his relationships and mental health, and how he overcame it. If you take a few minutes to read through the comments left on this video, you will see there are so many people struggling with gaming addiction.
- “The hardest thing about a video game addiction is that no one takes it seriously, therefore its really hard to find support. I told one of my closest friend that I was addicted to video games and she replied ” but its not really an addiction” even though she knew i was playing 14 hours a day 5 days a week.” – Ch3ls3yxxSubs
- “I’ve been struggling with this for a long time and I want to break this cycle. I have developed no/little social skills and I’m paying the price at the age of 29.” – Chad P
- “I game so much so I can forget about real life. Honestly, real life sucks in my opinion. Gaming is great.” – Uganda Knuckles
WHO recognizes “Gaming Disorder”
Recently the World Health Organization (WHO) recognized “gaming disorder” in the International Classification of Diseases. This is big news for both those who are trying to get help and the people wanting to help them. In the past when those dealing with this addiction tried to talk to loved ones or reach out for help, they were often not taken seriously. There are many stories of people trying to talk to their friends about their addiction only to result in being laughed at or told it’s not a real addiction.
Finally, with this new classification, insurance companies are more likely to cover treatment. It may make those that are addicted more likely to seek treatment, while also encouraging more therapists to learn about how to treat these addicted individuals.
Help is available
Even though many people are just starting to accept gaming disorder as an addiction, there is help out there. If you are looking for an intervention for yourself or a loved one, or if you need advice on the best treatment center to fit your loved one’s needs, please call our free service line at 877-229-5462 or email us. An ARISE® Intervention is an effective way to help your loved one enter treatment and recover their hijacked brain.