Having a loved one with an internet video game problem is difficult. Recognizing the difference between an internet or video game problem and a video game or internet addiction can be difficult. The main difference between problem gaming and addiction is the level of involvement and the disruption or interference in their daily life. Specifically, is it affecting their ability to work, sleep, eat, bathe, or exercise? Is their performance in school, home life, or work decreasing? Are they becoming less interested in things that used to interest them? Are they becoming less social or less willing to participate in things with the family?
If any of these issues sound familiar then your loved one may be addicted to the internet or video gaming and it is time to seek professional help before it causes irreparable damage. Choosing internet use or gaming over school, work, or family, is very concerning and can damage relationships long-term.
According to a 2016 study, “gamers” can become so engrossed in playing video games that it negatively affects their abilities to excel at school, work, and in social environments. As mentioned above, one of the primary differences between a “problem gamer” and an addict is the amount of time spent playing video games and its interference with daily life. Addicts play video games more than “problem gamers.” Addicts also tend to have lower grades, use gaming as a way to escape reality, have a hard time paying attention at work or school, be more aggressive, get into more fights, and be diagnosed with attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) or attention-deficit disorder (ADD). Basically, “problem gamers” are able to still function well without a change in their other parts of life. They are still able to engage with the outside world well, while addicts may struggle with that.
Internet and Gaming Addiction
According to a recent study on video games, approximately 9% of “gamers,” aged 8-to-18, exhibit the signs of an addict.
Listed below are some warning signs of a gaming addiction:
If your child or loved one is addicted to “gaming,” they will fixate on video games when they are unable to indulge in this activity. For instance, an addict may appear to be indifferent, distracted, bored, irritated, frustrated, and disinterested when asked to participate in other activities. This person may also talk about video games constantly, causing peers to distance themselves from them.
If you express your concern about the video game playing to your loved one or child, and they vehemently deny that they have a problem, they may be an addict. Most problem and addicted gamers downplay or lie about how much time they spend playing video games.
Loss of Control
A person who is a video game addict, or at-risk of becoming one, will have a hard time stepping away from the internet or video game for any length of time. For instance, an addict may tell you that they will be finished in 15 minutes only to be in the same spot, doing the same thing, 2-hours later.
It is common for addicts to neglect their responsibilities so they can spend more time playing video games. Family, teachers, bosses, and friends may complain that they never see or hear from the addict anymore or that they are acting differently. As a result, work and school performance will decline. Some addicts even forego self-care (bathing, eating, exercise), in favor of playing video games.
If your child or loved one is an addict, they may be using video games to avoid situations that make them uncomfortable. This is especially true if your loved one has low self-esteem and self-confidence, a mood disorder, disability, mental health or behavioral issue, etc. In this situation, “gaming” is used to avoid real-life problems.
There are usually numerous warning signs that your loved one is developing a serious gaming problem. However, it is often hard to recognize these signs before they turn into internet addiction. Internet and gaming addictions can affect people of all ages, so it is important to be aware of the signs. By being observant and pro-active, you can prevent a “gaming problem” from taking over your loved one’s life. Just remember, it is never too early or late for your loved one to seek treatment for video game addiction. With love, support, and a dedicated therapist, they will be able to spend more time developing healthy relationships and doing well in school and work.
- Wittek, C. T., Finseras, T. R., & Molde, H. (2016). Prevalence and predictors of video game addiction: A study based on a national representative sample of gamers. International Journal of Mental Health and Addiction, 14(5), 672-686. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5023737/#!po=3.57143
- Weinstein, A. & Weizman, A. (2012). Emerging association between addictive gaming and attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder. Current Psychiatry Reports, 14(5), 590–597. Retrieved from https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007%2Fs11920-012-0311-x