It’s possible to find balance in your life while still enjoying today’s technology.
Many people have been playing video games since they were children. Today, gaming has only grown in popularity since the internet has made it more accessible, affordable, and we see more games.
The pandemic prevented people from spending much time outside of the home, and many turned to video games as a way to fill their days. They can be fun to play alone or with others while exercising and entertaining your mind in the process.
Video games can be safe and fun for most people. But some people may begin to show unhealthy patterns of addiction to gaming, which may lead to unexpected consequences. You may not see friends as much or find more joy in online gaming relationships, leading to prioritizing gaming over work responsibilities.
These consequences, among others, could be a sign that you or a loved one has a gaming disorder.
Gaming disorder is persistent and repeated participation in computer gaming for typically 8 to 10 or more hours per day and at least 30 hours a week.
But gaming disorder is not yet an official disorder in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 5th edition (DSM-5), and more research is generally needed.
Gaming addiction can be a severe disorder that may cause issues with:
- personal health
- mental health
- relationships with others
- work and school responsibilities
But experts are optimistic that more studies will shine a light on this condition and how best to treat it.
Also, a small 2018 study indicated that the business of the video game sector saw worldwide growth of 8.5% in 10 countries, including the United States.
At the time, that was a significant increase. More growth can be anticipated as accessibility and affordability improve amid the emergence of new technologies.
Ryan Van Cleave, author of “Unplugged: My Journey in the Dark World of Video Game Addiction,” reflected how he would try to find any extra time to play online games. But he also noticed he was neglecting his family and career.
This example demonstrates how people can feel a lack of control over their gaming and even prioritize it over other parts of their lives, like friendships, exercise, and maintaining their jobs.
A person with gaming disorder may exhibit the following symptoms:
- experiences difficulty controlling gaming habits
- makes gaming a priority over necessity, work, and other daily activities
- continues gaming after adverse health and social problems are identified
- experiences withdrawal symptoms, like sadness and anxiety, when you can’t play
- deceives loved ones about how much time you spend gaming
These symptoms are not exclusive to computer gaming. Whether you prefer to play games on your phone, computer, a gaming system, or other devices, the signs and symptoms of gaming disorder are the same.
Gaming must cause significant distress in several areas of your life to meet the criteria of a gaming disorder diagnosis.
Research suggests there may be a link between a gaming disorder and other conditions, such as:
More research is still needed to draw further conclusions about the relationship.
Video gaming addiction can adversely impact your health and cause stress in your life. Here are some of its most detrimental impacts.
Playing video games over long periods can cause eyestrain, which can manifest as other vision-related symptoms, such as headaches and dizziness.
A 2018 review presented data that suggested children may complain of pain in their hands and wrist from excessive gaming. You can also experience blisters, nail damage, and tendon injuries in your hands from frequent gaming.
Weight gain and obesity
Children in the United States spend about 25% of their time playing video games or watching television. This means kids may not be participating in exercise or activities that move their bodies, leading to weight gain.
Impaired social connections
You can make new friends and work on a team while remaining anonymous with an “avatar” in the game. This feature can allow those who feel socially awkward or experience poor self-esteem to value the game’s social aspect.
But social relationships can be significant and may benefit mental health far more than virtual relationships.
The virtual world does not typically improve self-esteem. Instead, it can lead to irrational thoughts about yourself and your environment.
Gaming addiction may be related to other types of addictive disorders, such as:
There is no cure for a gaming disorder, and many experts still don’t know enough about it. But there are ways you can cope.
Therapy can be very effective for preventing symptoms of gaming addiction. Here, you work one-on-one with a therapist or participate in group therapy to identify gaming triggers and learn to manage your urges to play.
When gaming is your escape from the world and the challenges that come with it, therapy can help with:
- building self-esteem
- exploring your identity
- increasing emotional intelligence
- embracing your environment, rather than trying to escape it
Therapy can also help treat co-occurring and underlying mental health conditions that can complicate gaming addiction, such as:
- attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)
If you feel you or a loved one may have gaming disorder, you’re not alone.
Seeking help from a therapist experienced in video game addiction can be a beneficial first step in feeling better. If you’re ready to get support but don’t know where to start, you can check out Psych Central’s guide to finding mental health care.
There are also helpful podcasts on coping with video game addiction, such as “The Gone Gaming Podcast.”
Being hooked on games can be a real addiction. But it’s possible to end the cycle of constant gaming and gain back balance in your life.