But where do we draw the line on what we call an addictive behavior? Is everyone who plays too many video games addicted to them? Let’s dig deeper into these questions.
What is video game addiction?
Excessive activity and addictive activity aren’t the same thing. What sets them apart and what makes it possible to diagnose something as addiction is how much of an interference it is in that person’s life. That is, someone with video game addiction will miss out on a lot of their life because they’re playing video games.
To identify video game addiction, and to be able to prevent it and treat it, you have to know that there are some important behavioral indicators. To give you an idea, here are some associated symptoms:
- Attention: video games become the center of the person’s life. They spend a lot of their time thinking about playing, or about their next game. The same thing happens with their feelings and actions.
- Mood changes: a video game addict displays a subjective feeling of euphoria and excitement while they’re playing.
- Tolerance: just like substance addiction, they have a growing need to play and get the same high out of playing as they did when they started. That means they’ll spend increasing amounts of time playing video games, and that’s the beginning of a vicious cycle.
- Withdrawal symptoms: when they can’t play, or when they have less time to play, the person will show symptoms similar to what people in withdrawal go through. For example, there’s irritability, bad mood, etc.
- Conflict: this has to do as much with interpersonal conflicts as it does with other activities or with themselves. Video game addiction has an impact on their relationships, and work or school conflicts will also arise. At the same time, the person will start to feel like they’re losing control.
- Relapse: after periods of abstinence or control, they fall right back into their old, addictive behavioral patterns with video games.
Treatments for video game addiction
The only very recent awareness and the fact that there isn’t much research about it have resulted in few treatments available for video game addiction. There are other factors that make it harder to progress on this front too, like the growth of the video game industry, the relatively low cost of the addiction, and the general population’s permissive attitude about these kinds of activities.
But there are still some things you can do to prevent it. The groups that are especially vulnerable are kids and teenagers. That’s why there are methods directed at parents and educators who might think they might have a video game addict on their hands. In that situation, these are some things they can do.
Advice for parents
- Check the contents of the games they play most, and if it’s bad, replace violent games with more educational ones.
- Encourage the child to play in groups. That will keep them from isolating themselves and will also foster social interaction.
- Agree on the rules and amount of time they can play. For example, make a deal with them that they can play two hours every afternoon once they’ve done their homework.
- Make sure you actively listen to the child. You have to remember that there’s a reason for their behavior. It’s probably a way of communicating or expressing some problem in other parts of their life.
- If none of those steps work, you can take away their game console for a while until you think it’s the right time to give it back.
Of course when it’s an adult with the video game addiction, that’s a different story. There are clinics specifically for adults, even though they’re much less prone to it. The philosophy of said clinics is to show people that they can enjoy the real world just as much as the fantasy world.