Gaming Addiction (Video Game Addiction)

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Breaking the Cycle and Finding Balance in Life

Take control of your gaming habits and learn how to overcome the harmful effects of addiction.

In the gaming community, the biggest argument is PC vs Console, but outside of these challenges, there is a much bigger problem. Gaming addiction, or as it is formally defined – gaming disorder, is quickly becoming one of the biggest compulsions, and it is not just limited to the United Kingdom.

Being ‘addicted’ to playing video games is not illegal nor recognised as putting your body or mind in direct harm’s way. However, in the past decade, we have been observing cases of serious consequences following the side effects of compulsive gaming. The lack of concise definitions regarding the condition and the immense marketing involved in what’s one of today’s largest industries creates an unhealthy environment for developing one of today’s most common behavioural addictions.

If you, or someone you know, is letting their gaming hobbies overtake their everyday responsibilities, relationships or financial stability, please contact the CATCH Recovery team today. We have experience helping people of different ages reinvent their gaming behaviour by creating a healthier relationship with their hobby.

How the Gaming Market Attracts Gamers

As of 2021, the gaming industry is one of the fastest-growing worldwide. The latest data shows that the market value of video gaming reached £ 141.5 billion in 2021, while in comparison, the apparel industry reached £45.5 billion. Although most of these come from buyouts and business plays on the stock market, they also come from purchases and advertisement revenue.

Availability is not the only way games attract players, video games are overtaking sports with massive events such as Riot Games’ Worlds 2022 tournament finals for League of Legends, which amassed over 140 million hours of watch time.

Advertisements in social media play a big part in spreading awareness of mobile games. For example, social media influencers would advertise games they have tested for sometimes as little as a few minutes, if at all. As there is no regulation of what is ethical in influencer marketing, let alone advertisements on apps and mobile services, apart from what each platform sets in the terms and conditions, many unethical advertisement techniques are still widely used. These practices would advertise gambling apps to users who play games based on slot machines or easy loans to those who have spent over a certain amount on an app already.

Another problem slowly being incorporated within the mobile gaming world is co-existing gambling and alcohol addiction. While alcohol companies are rarely seen to advertise on mobile apps, their items are sometimes used inside marketing software presented in casual games where the branded content will be present within the match-three items or as part of a character’s clothing.

Although the so-called gacha games, such as Genshin Impact, are the epitome of playing upon the gambler’s weaknesses, all platforms benefit from a deep gambling vein.

Loot boxes are a form of gambling that plays on the very dangerous nuances between the adrenaline rush from spending on an unknown but possibly very beneficial item and the dopamine rush from opening a gift. Just like casinos manipulate the rarity rates of jackpots, game developers manipulate the rates at which rare, epic and legendary items are available within the loot boxes.

An especially popular strategy in computer games is that, often, a pay-to-win scenario even allows gamers to spend hard-earned cash on loot boxes so that they can advance in the game quicker, making it harder for those who cannot fund video gaming as much, causing peer pressure for spending.

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When Does Having Fun Become Dangerous?

It’s important to understand that gaming itself is not a problem. The issue occurs when you play video games compulsively and disorderly, causing harm to other life interests.

In 2018, the World Health Organization added Gaming Disorder to the International Classification of Diseases 11th Revision (ICD-11) diagnostic manual, allowing for the diagnosis of video game addiction (World Health Organization, 2018). This decision sparked widespread debate and led to misinformation, including the claim that playing video games for twenty hours per week constitutes addiction. However, this figure is not supported by the ICD-11 diagnostic criteria and misrepresents the guidelines.

Problematic Gaming: Physical and Mental Health Consequences

The risks associated with gaming addiction extend beyond physical health and encompass various mental health consequences.

Negative Effects on Mental Health

Many attempts to self-medicate underlying mental health problems by gaming, but this hobby is not a treatment. The negative consequences of video game addiction outweigh eventual temporary improvements. Gaming addiction has been linked to social isolation and loneliness. The feeling of being alone, isolated and neglected by society is linked to many mental health conditions, including:

  • Depression

  • Anxiety

  • Obsessive compulsions

  • Bipolar disorder

  • Some personality disorders

In addition, many people in therapy for suicidal ideation confide that being alone prompted them to think about hurting themselves because ‘no one cares’. Frighteningly, many people in therapy for gaming disorder also claim that games provide comfort when ‘no one cares’ about them. The UK Department for Culture, Media and Sport released a report linking loneliness to many mental health disorders, but also turn our eyes towards the stigma of seeking help for feeling lonely.

How Video Game Addiction Affects Our Bodies

  • Physical video game addiction symptoms include inflammation of the tendons that move the thumb, often referred to as “gamer’s thumb”, “PlayStation thumb”, “nintendinitis” or “nintendonitis” for Nintendo fans. This condition also has a medical name, de Quervain’s tenosynovitis, and can lead to swelling and obstructed movement.
  • Another physical symptom of excessive video gaming is carpel tunnel syndrome, typical for PC gamers, resulting from an inflamed wrist nerve. It can cause pain and immobilise your wrist if left untreated. While carpal tunnel syndrome is mostly treated surgically, lowering your gaming time will improve your chances of it going away if it hasn’t reached a more severe level yet. It can be a significant impairment if, apart from gaming, you are using your wrists in labour or sports.
  • Posture and spinal disorders caused by irregular exercising and sedentary life are common among gamers and office workers. Sitting in the same position for extremely long periods can cause nerve damage or numbing of different segments of your system.
  • The last common physical symptom of excessive gaming is actually a group of conditions – visual impairments. Blue light, screen time and the LED lights most gamers adore are all risk factors for developing eye strain, which can lead to migraines and even seizures if co-occurring with other neurological conditions.
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You Don’t Need to Stop Playing Video Games

It is essential to consider the mental health benefits of gaming, which can include improved cognitive function, problem-solving skills, and social connections. Playing video games can also open new worlds for those not extroverted enough to walk outside and start a conversation with a random person on the street, in the gym or at the tube station. For example, people might spend hours playing games with friends and still be in real-life relationships, regardless of distance.

While a gaming session can be beneficial for removing yourself from stress and letting go of worries, we need to be careful and not turn our favourite pastime hobby into a coping mechanism. Studies show that mental health can suffer greatly if we neglect our needs and cope by ignoring the problem. Often, as a consequence of childhood trauma and finding a haven in the fantasy world, gamers might turn to recurrent gaming behaviour as adults.

In addition, the impact on academic achievement is another factor contributing to gaming addiction. Addictive behaviours have been found to negatively impact academic performance in young people, and excessive gaming may lead to a decline in academic performance as they prioritise gaming over their studies and other responsibilities.

Can Video Game Addiction Lead to Other Addictive Behaviours?

People involved in competitive internet gaming might turn to stimulants to improve their win-to-lose ratios. Or smoke cannabis to loosen their nerves when participating in ranked games. One avid Grand Theft Auto IV player even admitted taking cocaine because the game “was faster and more beautiful while [he] was on cocaine, and breaking laws seemed even more seductive”.

Being genetically predisposed to addictive behaviours, or suffering from a mental health condition, can affect your decision-making resulting in dual diagnosis or co-occurring addictions. However, we must remember that video, computer games and mobile apps are not innately harmful. Abusing them is.

D.L. King mentions in the book “Video Game Addiction: Past, Present and Future” that external influences, such as controlling parents, can contribute to feelings of guilt and negatively impact young people’s enjoyment of video games. Especially in young people and children, allowing them to engage in gaming without detracting from their quality of life is crucial for their overall well-being.

Early intervention and treatment services we provide can help mitigate these risks and promote healthier gaming habits, so that they do not lead to substance abuse or other co-occurring disorders.

Signs and Symptoms of Gaming Addiction: How to Identify a Problem

Preoccupation with gaming is a key indicator of problematic gaming. If you notice that you are constantly thinking about past gaming experiences and anticipate future gaming sessions, then you might be overly attached to this hobby of yours. Withdrawal symptoms, such as irritability, anxiety, or sadness, may occur when gaming is reduced or stopped.

An increase in time spent gaming, often at the expense of other activities, is another sign of gaming addiction. Unsuccessful attempts to control gaming behaviour, losing interest in other activities, and lying about playing games time are common symptoms.

Other symptoms of video game addiction include:

  • Poor personal hygiene
  • Increased time spent online
  • gaming takes precedence to previous hobbies
  • Poor social life
  • Poor performance at work
  • Inability to quit gaming
  • Other emotional symptoms such as increased irritability, mood swings, and anxiety when asked to move away from their gaming set
  • Other minor physical symptoms such as exhaustion, red eyes, slight tremors in hands and fingers, joint stiffness, sweating

Research has shown that gaming for 20+ hours per week can be associated with addictive behaviours, social isolation, poor mental health, and decreased academic achievement. However, this is not valid for everyone. In 2022, there were nearly 4,000 people who play video games as a profession in the US, with nearly 2,000 registered eSport players in China and 888 in the UK.

Identifying the problem is not as easy, as you can see, and this is where we could help you. CATCH Recovery has several gaming disorder specialists ready to assess your, or your loved ones’, gaming behaviour and habits.

Finding Healthy Coping Mechanisms

Developing healthy coping mechanisms that can replace or complement gaming activities is crucial to prevent overreliance on gaming for stress relief.

One effective approach is to engage in physical exercise, which has been proven to reduce stress and improve mental health. Additionally, practising mindfulness and meditation can help you develop greater self-awareness and emotional regulation, reducing the need for escapism through online games.

Encouraging social interaction and fostering strong relationships with friends and family can also provide a support network to help your loved ones cope with stress and reduce the reliance on gaming as a means of escape.

How we Treat Gaming Addiction

At CATCH Recovery, we offer a range of therapies for behavioural addictions, which have been shown to improve mental health and reduce compulsive behaviours.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)

This is a widely recognised and effective treatment for gaming addiction. This therapeutic approach helps identify and modify thought patterns and behaviours related to excessive gaming. Research has shown that CBT can significantly improve gaming addiction symptoms, with one study reporting a 69% reduction in gaming hours after treatment.

Family Therapy

This is another essential component of a treatment programme. As gaming addiction can significantly impact family dynamics, involving family members in recovery can lead to better outcomes. Research has demonstrated that family therapy can improve communication, reduce conflict, and increase overall family functioning in cases of gaming addiction.

Group Therapy

Support groups are also integral to our treatment approach. These sessions provide a safe space to share experiences, learn from others and develop coping strategies. Studies have shown that group therapy can reduce gaming addiction symptoms and improve psychosocial functioning.

Internet gaming disorder is a new condition which is still being researched, but because of its relation to other behavioural addictions, we have many resources and therapies which can help you heal. From our alternative therapies to the traditional approach, CATCH Recovery’s programme is a reliable and proven way to get back in control of your gaming habits.

Continued Care and Support by CATCH Recovery

Relapse prevention is crucial in maintaining long-term recovery from gaming addiction. Establishing a support network is a vital component of aftercare, as it provides individuals with a sense of belonging and encouragement from others who have faced similar challenges. Support networks can include friends, family, peers in recovery, professional therapists, and counsellors. This is why you will also build trust and lasting relationships during your group and family sessions with the CATCH counsellors.

Developing healthy coping mechanisms is another essential aspect of aftercare. These mechanisms can help manage stress, anxiety, and other triggers that may lead to relapse. Examples include engaging in physical activity, practising mindfulness and pursuing hobbies or interests outside of gaming. Our holistic therapies can help you discover what attracts you to games and discover these feelings in other diverse activities.

Setting realistic goals is also important in the recovery process. During your relapse-prevention sessions, we will establish achievable objectives to motivate you further to maintain your recovery. These goals can be related to personal, professional, or academic achievements and improvements in mental health and overall well-being.

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Start Your Recovery from Gaming Addiction Today!

One of the key components of CATCH Recovery’s approach is professional support from a team of experts in addiction and mental health. These professionals will work closely with you to identify the root causes of your gaming addiction and develop strategies to overcome it. This support is crucial, as research has shown that addictive behaviours like gaming can co-occur with other addictions, like alcohol and substance misuse.

We adopt a holistic approach to treatment, addressing gaming addiction and the underlying factors contributing to it. This approach considers your physical, emotional, and mental wellbeing, ensuring that all aspects of your life are considered in the recovery process. By addressing the root causes of gaming addiction and providing comprehensive support, CATCH Recovery helps you regain control of your life and achieve lasting recovery.

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