Video game addiction has gotten a lot of attention following the World Health Organization’s decision to recognize gaming addiction in its International Classification of Diseases. This has been seen by many as a positive step because it will allow more people to get treatment for gaming addiction through their insurance or government health service. Despite this official recognition, there is still disagreement over whether gaming addiction should be considered a disease at all and the American Psychiatric Association still has not recognized gaming addiction as a mental health disorder. Deciding whether your teen has a gaming addiction that requires intervention or treatment can be hard. After all, games are fun and it’s pretty normal for teens to spend a lot of time playing video games. Studies have shown video games aren’t inherently harmful and some may have some cognitive benefits. And gaming is now a huge industry, meaning that spending long hours gaming may eventually be leveraged into a promising career. So how do you know when enthusiasm for gaming has tipped into addiction?
Gaming interferes with more important activities.
One major sign of any addiction is that it interferes with more important activities. It’s hardly surprising if your teen would rather play video games than do homework or mow the yard, but if gaming pushes out everything else, it may be cause for concern. For example, if he’d rather not see friends so he can spend more time playing or if he even neglects to eat because he doesn’t want to take a break, it’s probably a sign of addiction.
He keeps playing despite negative consequences.
Prioritizing gaming over everything else is bound to have some negative consequences. These may include dramatic weight loss or gain, falling grades, social isolation, spending money–possibly money he doesn’t have–on games, and so on. If he is aware of these consequences but keeps playing anyway, it’s a clear sign of addiction.
He plays video games to avoid problems.
People are supposed to play games because they’re fun, not to avoid problems. Unlike real life, video games are an arena where a teen can fully grasp problems and have the ability to solve them. There are clear objectives and skills can be learned quickly. If a boss is tough, you know you can beat him eventually. Real problems are tangled, murky, difficult, and sometimes insoluble. It’s no mystery why video game problems are preferable. However, if a teen spends all his time playing video games to avoid facing his real life problems, that situation needs to be addressed.
He has tried to stop but he can’t.
Perhaps the surest sign of addiction is trying to quit but being unable to. People often rationalize their inability to quit, saying something like, “I decided it wasn’t that big of a deal,” or “I didn’t play for two days, so that proves I can quit if I want.” More often, they just couldn’t stay away. This is especially true if he’s aware of the negative consequences of playing video games to the exclusion of everything else, but still “decides” not to quit. As with many addictions, video game addiction is usually a sign of some other problem. Gaming addiction itself isn’t as intractable as most substance addictions. There may be some withdrawal symptoms, but they are typically mild, such as irritability or restlessness. The real concern is that gaming might be an unhealthy coping mechanism. A teen with a gaming addiction should at least talk to a therapist.
If your teen is struggling with gaming addiction or mental health issues, Recovery Ways can help. Recovery Ways is a premier drug and alcohol addiction treatment facility located in Salt Lake City, Utah. Our Copper Hills location specializes in teen and adolescent addiction and mental health issues. Our mission is to provide the most cost-effective, accessible substance abuse treatment to as many people as possible. Request information online or call us today at 1-888-986-7848.