Gaming, why do people become addicted and what can be done?
Over the past few decades, gaming addiction has progressed from a few isolated cases into an international epidemic. Now recognised and classified as an addiction by the World Health Organisation, it can affect anyone. Increasingly addictive games like Fortnite or Battlefront II target people of all ages. Here, we explore the phenomenon, try to answer key questions and offer advice on treatment and recovery.
What is gaming addiction?
Gaming addiction is one of a group of disorders known as process addictions. It is characterised by the compelling urge to repeat the same behaviour patterns over and over again despite knowing that they will have a detrimental or harmful effect. Although process addictions like gaming, sex addiction or gambling don’t have the acute physical withdrawal symptoms as substance addictions, they can be just as difficult to deal with. However, with professional treatment it’s possible to break the cycle and learn how to avoid falling back into the video game trap.
Is addiction to video games really such an issue?
For many of us, gaming is a harmless hobby, a relaxing pastime or a bit of fun. For others, it's an addictive obsession that can take over their lives. In the U.K., it’s estimated that 46 million people are addicted to the internet, with gaming and social media accounting for the largest share. Figures from the University of New Mexico in the USA suggest that between 6 to 15 percent of those who play games regularly show signs of addiction. In Australia, almost 97 percent of homes with children in them have access to internet gaming sites and around 67 percent of the population play video games with some regularity.
Seems like a lot? Not when you consider that not everyone is playing battle games; thousands of people play seemingly innocuous games such as Candy Crush or Angry Birds on hand held devices like phones and tablets every day. These simple format games can be every bit as addictive as tournament style games.
An Australian television show asked the question 'video games, how much is too much?' and noted that the fastest growing group of new gamers is the over 65s. Retired people can find themselves lonely or with too much time on their hands and simple games that they can access from their smartphones introduce them to a whole community of online friends.
The same is true of any age group. Some players say that they feel as if they have more in common with their gaming groups than they do with their real life friends and relatives.
Why is gaming so addictive?
Gaming is addictive because video game creators set out to make them as addictive as possible. There are dozens of online sites boasting 'the most addictive games'. Companies who produce video games want to hook players from the start and keep them playing so that they are more likely to use in-App purchases that allow them to power up or play on.
Because players have a high level of interaction and form large international communities, the fantasy world often becomes much more appealing than the real one. For example, an intelligent young person who is unpopular at college, school or work suddenly finds that, in the game, they're a leader, someone that other players look up to. This tempts them to play for even longer and many say that they feel closer to fellow gamers than to their peers.
What are the signs of gaming addiction?
Gaming takes time. It's not uncommon for addicts to spend upwards of five hours playing each day. As a result, their social life, education, work or relationships fall by the wayside. Sadly, in recent years, it has been noted that many young adults have stunted their mental growth through their addiction to gaming. For example, a 22-year old male might have the mental skills of a 12-year old because he simply hasn't played sports, learned to talk to girls or socialise because he has spent the past few years playing at every opportunity.
In role playing games (RPGs), players take on a new persona. Often their avatar will be powerful or appealing in some major way. Addicts tend to identify more with their online character and see other players in the same light. This makes it more difficult for them to relate to their friends and families and they can become withdrawn and secretive in a bid to hide the extent of their game addiction from others.
Other signs that someone may have a problem with gaming can include:
- Spending less time with family
- Preference for own company
- Disappearing into bedroom for long periods
- Looking tired in the morning
- Missing meals
- Being late or failing to attend school, college or work
- Anger or irritability when forced to stop playing
- Avoidance of social occasions
- Lack of interest in previously enjoyable things like sports, sex and socialising
What can you do if you need help with gaming addiction?
Gaming addiction can be overcome. In general, the internet is an invaluable asset that is a useful educational tool that can also be used for work and entertainment. Most people use the internet in relative safety but, for some, it's all too easy to become addicted to gaming and the community that surrounds it. However, it is possible to treat gaming addiction and re-learn ways of using the internet productively without being tempted to relapse. It's a difficult task since many of us rely on the internet for work, school, shopping, or banking among other things.
At The Wave Clinic, we treat every type of process addiction including gaming. Our effective, professionally lead programme can be tailored to the individual needs of each client. We combine classic methods such as group and one-on-one counselling with holistic and complementary treatments, education and physical activities and are committed to treating the complete person rather than one facet.
Our tranquil setting in a peaceful part of Kuala Lumpur is conducive to rest and recovery and you're far from the stresses and triggers you would encounter at home. In fact, intensive residential courses like ours have proven to be more effective than home treatment where sustained recovery is the aim. So, if you or someone you know has concerns about gaming addiction, do feel free to contact us for confidential advice and help without delay.