Updated: Aug 8, 2019
Most of us can remember the first time we used a game console. The gaming industry has morphed from cute pixelated characters to dramatic, high intensity, visually impressive and stimulating games . It's advanced in every sense, from visual effects, player connectedness, and even becoming as big as the sporting industry. You know it's turned into something big when you have 16 year olds winning big money and making a career out of gaming. To the average gamer, sitting at home and gaming is a time to connect with other players from around the world, hang out, win or lose together. Internet gaming can be a fun experience that brings people together and brings excitement to your day to day. However there is a small portion of gamers who will tell you, gaming has ruined their lives.
Just like food, shopping, alcohol, drugs and pornography, gaming can be also become addicting. According to the American Psychiatric Association, an estimated 72 percent of American households play video games. The APA estimates nine percent of the 3,034 participants in a study showed signs of video game addiction. Four percent of study participants were categorized as extreme users who played video games 50 hours per week on average. Think about the average school aged child who picks up his/her phone, or sit in front of their t.v. or computer, gaming their life away.
Just like any other addiction, those around the user suffer as well. If your spouse is addicted to gaming, you most likely feel alone and stressed because a lot of the responsibilities tend to fall on you. You tend to walk on eggshells and think twice about competing with your spouse's game time. If you dare to say a word there will be yelling, defensiveness and hurt feelings. If you're a parent, you might notice your child is irritable, impulsive, inpatient and withdrawing from family time.
So how do you know if your spouse, family member or child has an unhealthy and destructive relationship with gaming? The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, also known as the DSM 5 has not yet classified internet gaming as a disorder. Further research, is being conducted due to the emergence of data revealing gaming's destructive effects. The proposed symptoms to watch for are as follow:
1- Preoccupation with gaming
2- Withdrawal symptoms when gaming is taken away or not possible (sadness, anxiety, irritability)
3- Tolerance, the need to spend more time gaming to satisfy the urge
4- Inability to reduce playing, unsuccessful attempts to quit gaming
5- Giving up other activities, loss of interest in previously enjoyed activities due to gaming
6- Continuing to game despite problems
7- Deceiving family members or others about the amount of time spent on gaming
8- The use of gaming to relieve negative moods, such as guilt or hopelessness
9- Risk, having jeopardized or lost a job or relationship due to gaming
Again, this is not yet a formal diagnosis, however internet gaming addiction is so devastating, I believe it should be. Most of my clients struggling in this area will tell you it is a real addiction that places a strain on their relationships. Some risk losing their marriages, losing semesters in college and even losing their social life. Many in the gaming community deny addiction is real and downplay this. However residential programs to treat internet gaming addiction have emerged.
It's been my experience that just like when it comes to drug use, the gamer must hit "bottom", meaning some kind of terrible consequence must be experienced before they get help. Parents and spouses are encouraged to find support and set boundaries to stop enabling the addictive behavior. Your child, teen or spouse might not yet be ready to stop, however you can find support to help you cope with the battle that lies ahead. Online resources like gamequitters.com is a great place to start. You don't have to wait until your marriage or your child's life is severely impacted. Know the signs and get help.