Back at the beginning of 2018, the World Health Organization listed ‘gaming addiction‘ as a mental health disorder for the first time. While stopping just short of making it an official classification of mental illness, it paves the way for further study.
The World Health Organization (WHO) isn’t the first to note the condition. Many countries already have identified gaming addiction as a serious problem and even have treatment clinics available.
And while excessive gamers may have been the butt of jokes in the past, the reality is no laughing matter. Gaming addiction can, and does, ruin lives.
The Symptoms of Gaming Addiction
While professional gamers enjoy significant health benefits due to gaming, addicts find themselves in a much different position.
Gaming addicts frequently find themselves unable to control their frequency and duration of gameplay. Now, we’re not talking about someone who buys a new game and takes a week off work to binge on it. We’re talking about people who exhibit a compulsion to play video games over many months.
WHO suggests gaming addiction be measured over the course of a year. A key symptom is listed as, “continuation or escalation of gaming despite negative consequences”.
Have you ever gotten in trouble at work or with your spouse because of excessive gaming? That’s a symptom.
Gaming addicts may find themselves continuously prioritizing gaming over basic needs such as sleep, eating, or going to work/school. They may find themselves becoming irritable if they lose access to a gaming outlet.
The issue is complex. Researchers don’t all agree whether video game addiction is really a ‘thing’ or not. Those that agree compare it to gambling addictions where the high of winning becomes the primary addiction mechanism. The rush of dopamine that comes with winning a big jackpot is the same as what comes from winning an online challenge.
How a Psychiatrist Can Help
Treatment options for game addicts vary. In some cases, a detox is recommended. However, before you go so drastic, talking to a psychiatrist may offer benefits.
In most states, licensed psychiatrists specializing in video gaming addiction are relatively easy to find. If you’re afraid of sitting in an office on ‘the couch’, there are online psychiatrists that may be able to help.
A psychiatrist will likely begin a program of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT). It’s the most common therapeutic approach for Internet gaming disorders.
In many cases, a psychiatrist may be able to uncover underlying problems that contribute to a gamer ‘escaping’ reality into a video game world.
A licensed psychiatrist will also be able to determine if there are additional mental health issues. Anxiety or depression may be increasing your desire to game and thus catalyzing gaming addiction.
Final Thoughts: Gaming Addiction & Psychiatric Treatment
Video game addiction can affect your physical as well as your mental well-being. And like most addictions, recognizing there’s a problem and getting treatment early is paramount to success.
If you suffer from a gaming addiction, don’t hesitate to get help. Video games could be the only thing standing between you and greatness.
Sources & Additional Reading
1. BBC News: Gaming Addiction Classified as Disorder by WHO
2. WebMD: Video Game Addiction
3. American Addiction Centers: Video Game Symptoms and Treatment
4. Game Quitters: The 90 Day Detox
5. Addiction.com: Video Game Addiction Treatment
6. US National Library of Medicine: “One Level More:” A Narrative Review on Internet Gaming Disorder