There are more than 2.7 million video gamers worldwide in 2020, and the number will likely rise in the coming years. According to Limelight Networks, an average gamer spends six hours and 20 minutes playing eSports games each week. However, some exceed the standard gaming time to the point where they become addicted to it.
Game addiction is described as the excessive playing of video or online games. Persons afflicted with this kind of addiction prioritize games over anything else, thus affecting their daily activities. It’s sometimes referred to as pathological gaming, gaming disorder, gaming addiction, problem gaming, or video game addiction.
How Does Gaming Become An Addiction
There is a fine line between playing leisurely to being addicted to gaming. Most gamers have an elaborate relationship with the eSports games they’re playing, and the engagement is sometimes perceived as excessive. However, that doesn’t equate to gaming addiction, as some can stop voluntarily to do other tasks.
Many have studied this type of addiction to know the mechanisms that trigger it. They found out that there are many mechanisms involved, and there are numerous risk factors that give rise to gaming addiction:
- Low to no self-esteem
- Social anxiety
- Lack of empathy
Gaming turns into addiction in many ways. One probable cause of it is the chemical changes occurring in a gamer’s brain. Gros and his colleagues cited the dopamine level while playing games is the same when “provoked by psycho-stimulant drugs.” This surge of dopamine creates a positive stimulus that gets people hooked and eventually gets dependent on the feeling.
Escapism is also one of the reasons why others are addicted to playing eSports games. This mental mechanism diverts a person from their daily lives, especially when they’re experiencing distressing situations. Gamers sometimes create a new persona or characters in some games like MMORPGs and form friendships online.
Finally, another reason behind gaming addiction is the structure of most games nowadays. These games are built with reward systems which result in gratifications some gamers do not experience in real-life. Some games also have compulsion loops which hook the gamers into spending more game time.
The Role Of Parents In Preventing Gaming Addiction
The rapid advancement of technology has projected online and video games into the limelight. More people are playing these games either professionally or leisurely. Gamers are predominantly composed of individuals aged 21 to 35. Significantly, there are gamers between the ages of 10 and 20, covering almost a fourth of the gamer population worldwide.
As the present generation is immersed with these kinds of games, their children will follow suit. There is a significant role that parents play in mitigating gaming addiction in their children.
According to Schneider, King, and Delfabbro, familial influences affect a child’s chance of being addicted to gaming. Gaming addiction is associated with a poor or lack of positive parent-child relationship. They also noted the following instances when a child tends to develop a gaming addiction:
- When a child gets inadequate to no quality parenting
- When a child receives less to no affection from parents
- When a child has a worse family environment
A positive relationship between the parents and child can lessen the risk of gaming addiction. It can also diminish any existing symptoms the child may have.
Parents can prevent gaming addiction by reducing their children’s gaming time on top of a good parent-child relationship. Parents should create a daily schedule of all the activities of their children. Moreover, parents should immerse their children in other games like board and card games. When these tips are employed early in a child’s life, they can diminish the risk of developing a gaming addiction.
What Are The Early Signs of Video Game Addiction
There are many health researchers and health organizations that released sets of symptoms for gaming addiction. The eleventh edition of the International Classification of Disease (ICD-11) has laid out the following diagnostic requirements:
- Weakened control over playing video or online eSports games
- Gaming comes first over daily activities
- Continuation of gaming despite the occurrence of adverse outcomes
- Taking part in eSports gambling (real money betting, or even skin and item betting)
To thoroughly diagnose a person with gaming addiction, one must exhibit symptoms for 12 months. However, it can be shortened if all of the abovementioned symptoms are present.
In 2008, Mark Griffiths enumerated some of the physical and psychological symptoms of gaming addiction. He said that people would experience carpal tunnel syndrome, dry eyes, backaches, irregular eating and sleeping patterns, and migraines. As for psychological symptoms, Griffiths listed the following:
- Lying about activities
- Inability to stop playing
- A sense of wellbeing or euphoria while playing
- Feeling empty and irritable when not playing
- Neglecting family and social interactions
- Having problems in school or work
The symptoms mentioned above are some of the many associated with gaming addiction. It is a must not to diagnose oneself or diagnose others. Always ask a psychiatrist or any licensed mental health professional to determine if you have a gaming addiction. Moreover, it is also vital that you don’t misinterpret fondness for playing a few eSports games with gaming addiction. Even playing a lot doesn't necessarily equate to addictive behavior at all.
Health Risks Associated With Gaming Addiction
Obviously, there are plenty of adverse effects in any addiction. Some are mild, and some are severe, some are manageable, and some are life-threatening. Like other kinds of addiction, gaming addiction can have severe effects on those experiencing it.
For example, people experiencing the said addiction may succumb to a sedentary lifestyle. A sedentary lifestyle entails little or no physical activity, and they’re often in sitting or lying down positions. This kind of lifestyle can diminish a person’s posture and gain weight. It can also increase an individual’s risk of having diseases like Diabetes 2.
Another health risk in the short run is hunger and lack of sleep as they cannot leave the game. However, the long-term effect of irregular eating and sleeping patterns is developing eating and sleeping disorders. Moreover, prolonged exposure to the computer monitor or the screen of a mobile phone strains your eyes.
Gamers with gaming addiction also tend to have an increased level of aggressiveness. They also have substandard cognitive functioning like poor impulse control and having symptoms.
Solutions & Finding Help
The first step in solving your gaming addiction is to step away from the game. After that, you can seek help from trusted and licensed institutions that offer programs in overcoming the said addiction. Most programs include therapies such as:
- Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) – this kind of treatment will re-teach you the processes that led to your diagnosis.
- Family therapy – this program determines any problem the gamer may face at home.
- Group therapy – this type of treatment lets you know that others like you are experiencing the same thing.
There are also health risks when undergoing treatment, like experiencing withdrawal symptoms. According to Computer Gaming Addicts Anonymous, these symptoms differ from each person that can last for days or months.
Withdrawal symptoms may include irritability, anxiety, restlessness, mood swings, impatience, and feeling empty. Some might also experience an immense feeling of being drawn to other electronic entertainment. Nonetheless, most gamers who experienced withdrawal symptoms have clearer minds and function better after some time.
Gaming is a double-edged sword. Individuals can play games to pass the time, and they can learn skills like spatial and hand-eye coordination. However, it also leads to adverse situations like game addiction. Gamers should find the perfect balance so gaming will not affect their daily lives.