While not an official mental health diagnosis, video game addiction is very real (Addicted to Video Games). This is embarrassing to admit, but I did nothing yesterday but play a Facebook game. I began to question whether I had a video game addiction and how to recover from it. Here are some signs that help to recognize a video game addiction and tips on how to recover from it.
Why Video Game Addiction Exists
Let’s face it–reality bites for a lot of us. By offering us a virtual world, video games provide an escape. But for some, that virtual world takes the place of the real world (Why Avoidance of Reality Is Dangerous).
Say, for example, you’re an awkward, unpopular social outcast at school. In the game world, you’re judged by your personality and can make friends easily. In the game world, you can be dominant and powerful. In the game world, you can be whatever you want to be–which is frequently someone you’re not but wish you were. That’s why video game addiction exists–it meets a need.
That’s not unintentional. At least one video game company employs psychologists to make their games as addictive as possible in order to separate the player from their money. It’s like alcohol, only with people researching ways to make the alcoholic crave the drink.
So what are the warning signs of video game addiction?
Warning Signs and How to Recognize Video Game Addiction
You might be taking gaming too seriously if any of the following are true:
- You become depressed or anxious when not playing the game.
- You spend most of your free time playing the game.
- You spend too much money on the game (if you buy a $49.99 contraption for the game when you make $8.25 an hour, for example).
- You lie about how much time or money you spend on the game.
- You spend an inordinate amount of time thinking about the game when you’re not playing it.
- You want to cut back on the time spent gaming but are unable to.
- You get annoyed when someone expresses concern about your gaming habits.
- You neglect basic self-care to play the game.
- You play the game to avoid real-life problems.
- You need to play the game for increasing amounts of time.
If in doubt, take an addiction screening test and replace the substance with “gaming” or “the game” (perhaps try that with the Gambling Test). Addiction is addiction is addiction, so most of the behaviors are the same. Video game addiction is a compulsive behavior as well, so try a test for obsessive-compulsive disorder using the game or gaming as your ritual. These types of screenings are not meant to provide definite answers. But, if the screening indicates a possible problem, consider getting professional help.
Recovering from Video Game Addiction
A video game addiction is like a food addiction–you have to learn to live with your addiction because you can’t avoid temptation. Because computers are such a vital part of our lives, it is foolish to expect to be able to be completely abstinent of all technology. Consequently, you have to learn how to use a computer without gaming–no exceptions. One doctor described time limits as comparable to an alcoholic saying they’re only going to have one drink. If you’re truly an addict, you can’t do anything halfway–and that includes video game addiction recovery.
While I do not consider myself a religious person, I’ve found twelve step programs to be effective. The first step to recovery is admitting you have a problem. This comes easier for some people than others. Admit you are powerless over your addiction and that your life has become unmanageable. The second step is believing you can change with the help of a Higher Power–whether that’s God, Allah, or Conscience is up to you. The good news is your Higher Power will change you if you truly desire to change.
Recovery is like a grimy mirror–a good cleaning is in order to see one’s reflection. Once you see that reflection, you can take action to change what you see.