Video game addiction treatment at Centres for Health and Healing

Video Game Addiction

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Video game addiction (VGA) is the compulsive or uncontrolled use of video games that can cause various problems in a person’s life. 

Like any addiction, video game addiction may cause you to experience issues with your mental and physical health, finances and interpersonal relationships.

Due to modern gaming, there are various ways in which someone can develop an addiction to playing video games, including computers, consoles, arcades, and even cell phones.

Those with video game addiction may struggle to prioritise other interests or daily activities due to compulsive gaming.

When this happens, an individual forms a strong emotional attachment to gaming and may struggle to disengage from this type of behaviour.

The different types of video game addiction

There are a few different types of video games that people can become addicted to. 

For example, single-player games involve completing a specific mission or task, such as making it out of a derelict building alive or collecting a certain amount of gold coins.

People who develop addictions to single-player games are often hooked on the “high” they get when they complete a mission or get a higher score than previously.

On the other hand, multiplayer games involve playing video games with other people. It’s common for gamers to develop strong relationships with other players where each person becomes immersed in the fantasy world of online gaming.

Studies show that individuals often feel more accepted by those in the gaming community than in the real world. In addition, multiplayer games are often used as a form of escapism for many.

Here, we will discuss video game addiction, its symptoms, and effective treatments that can help.

Let’s begin.

Co-occurring mental health disorders

Those with a video game addiction are more likely to experience depression and anxiety and report feelings of social isolation. These are called co-occurring disorders.

Mental health professionals use the term “co-occurring disorder” when a person is simultaneously diagnosed with an addiction and a mental health condition.

Diagnostic criteria for video game addiction

Although video game addiction is not yet recognised as a distinct mental health disorder in The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5 TR), research shows that additional proposed criteria have been published.

For example, for an individual to be diagnosed with video game addiction, their game playing must be severe enough to impact various aspects of their life, including:

  • Work
  • Home
  • Family relationships
  • School
  • Social relationships

Video game addiction is referred to as a “behavioural” or “process” addiction by mental health professionals.

Additional terms for video game addiction

You may come across other terms for video game addiction, such as:

  • Internet gaming disorder (IGD)
  • Problematic online gaming
  • Gaming disorder

How do you recognise a video game addiction?

Common signs and symptoms of video game addiction include the following:

  • Thinking about or wanting to play video games constantly
  • Lying about how much time you spend playing video games
  • Not being able to reduce or control your gaming and how long you play video games
  • Neglecting responsibilities at home, work, or school to play video games
  • Poor academic performance
  • Feeling irritated, anxious or angry when not gaming
  • Failure to maintain good personal hygiene
  • Insomnia, leading to fatigue
  • Playing video games to cope with unpleasant feelings or emotions
  • Continuing to engage in video gaming despite the problems it causes to your health, relationships and quality of life
  • Not wanting to engage in other activities that you used to enjoy
  • Feeling sad or upset if you are unable to play video games

If you have any of the above symptoms, you must seek help and support from an experienced professional as soon as possible.

Early treatment can help minimise the risks associated with chronic video gaming and help you get the care and support you need and deserve.

What are the causes of video game addiction?

Video game addiction is caused by spending excessive amounts of time playing games.

As mentioned, researchers have noted that multiplayer games can be particularly addictive – with large fantasy universes offering gaming addicts a form of escapism.

Immersive video games can make users lose track of time; before they know it, they have spent many hours engaging in online games. 

Researchers refer to the above state as “flow” – the optimal psychological experience that can arise from being fully engaged in an activity. When in a flow state, people experience a combination of feelings, including absorption and mastery, while completing a task.

Researchers have noted various factors that can determine a flow state, many of which can be attributed to those in the online gaming community.

In addition, while specific features – including in-app purchases, microtransactions and loot boxes – can fuel gaming addiction, some governments have banned these components as they are considered gambling.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) advises people who play video games to be aware of how much time they spend online gaming.

Brain changes

Studies suggest that specific brain chemicals like dopamine are released into the body when people play video games. This chemical is responsible for the feeling of pleasure you get when gaming, making it difficult to stop.

Dopamine plays a vital role in various bodily functions, including reward and motivation. 

For example, the brain releases dopamine when an individual experiences rewarding situations, especially in behavioural or process addictions, such as gambling, sex addiction and video gaming.

What are the different stages of video game addiction?

There are four main stages of video game addiction, which are:

  1. Casual interest – people often begin playing video games for leisure, spending a few hours a week on the activity.
  2. More profound interest – time invested in gaming increases, and a person’s interest becomes more profound. At this stage, video gaming starts to become a priority in a person’s life, and they may spend more money on gaming.
  3. Increased obsession – occurs when video gaming becomes an individual’s primary focus. As a result, a person may struggle to concentrate on anything besides gaming. In addition, the individual may become restless or anxious when not playing video games. Other hobbies or interests may also be neglected. When a person engages in a particular behaviour or abuses a specific substance, the “high” they experience makes them want to continue this behaviour, leading to tolerance. Tolerance occurs when someone needs to engage in a particular behaviour more or increase their substance use to achieve the desired effects.
  4. Gaming addiction – at this stage, the person becomes obsessed with playing video games, causing severe disruption to their daily life, including sleeping and eating patterns. The individual may focus all their time and energy on video gaming. Those experiencing VGA may find themselves isolated from friends, family and colleagues. In addition, people with video game addiction may neglect their hygiene. It is also common for people to experience withdrawal symptoms if they try to stop playing video games. Withdrawal symptoms may include anxiety, headache and fatigue, agitation and aggression.

The World Health Organisation reports that a person’s behavioural pattern must be of “sufficient severity” for a gaming disorder to be diagnosed.

For instance, they must exhibit significant disruption or impairment in specific areas of their life, including:

  • Personal relationships
  • Family life
  • Social interactions
  • Educational
  • Occupational

As well as the above, video game addiction may also impact other crucial areas of functioning. 

In addition, gaming disorder symptoms typically need to be evident for at least 12 months before an individual is diagnosed.

Can a gaming addiction be harmful? What are the consequences?

The World Health Organisation states that gaming addiction can significantly impact a person’s physical and psychological health and social functioning.

Video game addicts may experience poorer mental health outcomes and are more likely to develop anxiety and depression than those who do not suffer from gaming addiction.

In addition, those with VGA, particularly children, have been found to experience increased aggressive thoughts and behaviours.

Other harmful consequences of chronic video gaming include:

  • Poor social development
  • Issues with body posture that may lead to back pain and other physical health problems
  • Issues with concentration and attention
  • Adverse health effects from a sedentary lifestyle, including obesity, heart disease, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol
  • Lack of social engagement
  • Repetitive stress injuries and seizures – gamers with conditions such as epilepsy may be at risk of increased seizure episodes due to video game displays’ colours, graphics and flickering lights. In addition, studies show that chronic gaming can cause repetitive strain injury, particularly in the hands and wrists.

How do you treat video game addiction?

Admitting you have an addiction problem and seeking professional help is the first step to a happier, healthier, more fulfilling life.

Specific treatments can help you manage and overcome video game addiction, including talk therapy, group therapy and behaviour modification therapies, such as cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT).

Cognitive behavioural therapy for VGA

People with video game addiction benefit from various therapies and treatments, including cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT).

CBT helps you to identify and change any maladaptive thoughts and behaviours that may have led to video game addiction in the first place.

It is common for people to engage in video gaming to cope with painful emotions or other types of stress.

Video games can be alluring as they often catapult people into a fantasy world where the person may feel they have more control while playing games than they do in their ordinary lives.

In addition, the “high” experienced by winning can become addictive as the reward system in the brain is activated, making it difficult to stop.

CBT teaches you healthier coping mechanisms, allowing you to understand your addiction triggers, thus helping you avoid relapse.

Other effective treatments for video game addiction may include motivational therapy (MT) in combination with CBT, and other treatments, such as fitness therapy.

Video game addiction treatment at Centres for Health and Healing

At Centres for Health and Healing, our video game addiction therapy and rehab programs offer a unique, personalised approach to addiction recovery.

Like any addiction, video game addiction is often caused by a much deeper, underlying issue. For example, many individuals with gaming disorders have experienced some form of emotional trauma.

As mentioned earlier, those with video game addiction often have co-occurring mental health disorders such as anxiety and depression that must be treated simultaneously for patients to experience the best treatment outcomes.

At Centres for Health and Healing, our treatment programs look at all the various underlying components that need to be worked through and unpacked to give you the best chance at lasting recovery. We treat the “whole” person, not just their addictive symptoms.

With our strategic approach, mixed therapeutic methods and staff with decades of knowledge and experience, Centres for Health and Healing provides the setting, resources and tools necessary for deep transformational healing and long-term recovery.

We offer individualised treatment to those with various addictions and mental health disorders, including video game addiction, which includes a combination of therapies and approaches, such as:

We are happy to provide any further information you may need to make an informed decision about your recovery.

If you or someone you know are struggling with video game addiction, please contact our recovery centre in Toronto to discuss your treatment options.

Now is the time to get help for video game addiction.

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