Gaming addiction

Computer games are often demonised for a range of social issues from childhood aggression to teenage inactivity. While these criticisms are often unfair, for some people, there is one serious issue that computer games can lead to – gaming addiction. While it can be difficult to know exactly how many people are addicted to gaming, experts estimate that in the UK, the number is somewhere between 700,000 and 1,000,000. While gaming addiction may seem like an inescapable condition, there is effective treatment available with centres like Recovery Lighthouse helping people to break the cycle of their addiction.

Gaming addiction - controller

What is gaming addiction?

Gaming addiction is a type of behavioural addiction that is characterised by an intense need to play computer games at the expense of daily life activities. People with gaming addiction may play for hours on end, neglecting work, relationships and even basic needs like eating and sleeping. They become preoccupied with their game (or games) of choice and can find it difficult to stop playing even when they want to.

It is important to understand that gaming addiction does not just mean playing a lot of computer games. Many people enjoy playing computer games, and while some may play excessively, that doesn’t mean they have a computer game addiction. Being addicted to computer games means that your gaming has become a compulsive behaviour that you engage in despite it causing problems in your life.

What causes gaming addiction?

While it may sound incredible, some experts believe that gaming can be just as addictive as drugs are alcohol. This is because all addictions are fundamentally the same, no matter what the substance or behaviour. It is all about the reward systems in our brains and each person’s underlying issues or triggers which make them predisposed to addiction. These can be a family history of addiction, past trauma or even loneliness or stress.

Gaming provides a temporary escape from negative feelings and memories and makes you feel good. However, when you begin to chase that positive feeling, it is easy to become totally dependent on it where you need to play computer games just to feel normal. At this point, it can be very difficult to overcome your gaming addiction without professional help, as Lorraine Marer, a behavioural and addiction specialist explains:

Computer games are like heroin. Once you are hooked, it’s hard to get unhooked.

Who is most at risk of gaming addiction?

Underlying mental health issues are the biggest risk factor in developing a gaming addiction and include ADHD, anxiety, depression, stress and symptoms linked to loneliness, social isolation and boredom. These conditions can lead people to use gaming as a way of coping with their issues and connecting to the world in a safe and comfortable environment.

Young people are particularly at risk when it comes to gaming addiction due to the importance of computer games in youth culture, access to games through mobile devices and other platforms and the use of social media for gaming. Furthermore, young people may use gaming as a way to socialise and this is a common route to addiction, particularly if the individual is lacking in real-world socialisation.

Am I addicted to gaming?

Gaming addiction is a very sneaky condition and it can cause you to deny there is an issue and lie to yourself and your loved ones. If you are worried that you are addicted to gaming, ask yourself the following questions:

  • Do I spend more time gaming than I do with my friends and family?
  • Have I given up other activities I once enjoyed?
  • Do I struggle to focus on other tasks and activities?
  • Is excessive gaming affecting my work or studies?
  • Do I feel anxious, irritable or guilty when I’m not gaming?
  • Do I lie to my friends and family about how much time I spend gaming?
  • Am I unable to stop playing even though I recognise these issues?

If you have answered yes to any of these questions, then it is likely that you have a gaming addiction and should seek professional help. There is nothing to be embarrassed about and the sooner you act, the more quickly you can begin to make positive changes.

What are the effects of gaming addiction?

The effects of gaming addiction can be wide-ranging and serious, impacting all aspects of your life, including physical health, mental health and social relationships.

Physical effects can include poor posture due to long hours spent sitting in front of a computer or console, sleep deprivation due to late-night gaming sessions, eye strain and headaches. Mental health issues associated with gaming addiction can include anxiety, depression and low self-esteem. Gaming also has a significant impact on social relationships as it can become a priority over real-world activities and lead to isolation from friends and family.

Many of these issues develop slowly so you may not notice how serious the problem has become until it has taken hold, particularly as gaming is so prevalent in today’s world. This is why it is important to be aware of the signs and symptoms of gaming addiction and take action if necessary.

Gaming addiction - chained to controller

Myths around gaming addiction

While there have likely been people who have suffered from gaming addiction for decades, the condition is only now beginning to be taken seriously and widely recognised. This means there are still some common misconceptions surrounding gaming addiction. Here are some myths about gaming addiction and the truth behind them:

Myth: Gaming addiction only affects teenagers.

Fact: While young people are particularly at risk, gaming addiction can and does affect people of all ages.

Myth: It is not a “real” addiction.

Fact: Gaming addiction is a real and serious condition that should not be taken lightly. Just because it is not as widely recognised as other addictions, this does not mean it is any less harmful.

Myth: You can just stop playing games when you want to.

Fact: Gaming addiction can cause powerful cravings and feelings of guilt, unhappiness and anxiety which make it difficult to quit gaming on your own. This is why professional help is often necessary in order to break the addiction.

Myth: It is impossible to recover from gaming addiction.

Fact: With the right kind of help, recovery from gaming addiction is possible. Many people have been able to regain control over their lives and move on in positive ways.

How is gaming addiction treated?

There are two main stages in effective treatment for gaming addiction:

1. Gaming rehab…

Gaming rehab is the process of treating gaming addiction through therapy, where you can learn to recognise the underlying causes of your addiction and develop strategies for managing it. At Recovery Lighthouse, this is done through a range of proven, evidence-based therapies and holistic treatments which help to address the physical, mental and emotional aspects of gaming addiction. Our rehab programme includes:

  • 12-step – Originally developed for alcoholism, the 12-step programme is one of the most well-known treatment models for addiction. It can help you to understand your gaming addiction better, systematically address the underlying psychological issues and make peace with yourself and your loved ones.
  • Individual counselling – One-on-one sessions with a counsellor to discuss your gaming habits and explore any underlying issues.
  • Group therapy – Supportive group sessions which provide the opportunity to share experiences and gain insight from others who have been through the same thing.
  • Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) – Techniques to help identify and change unhealthy thought patterns which contribute to gaming addiction.
  • Family therapy – Sessions for you and your family to discuss how your gaming has impacted your relationships and learn how to build better communication and trust.

Holistic therapies such as yoga and meditation to reduce anxiety, improve well-being and manage cravings.

2. Aftercare…

Once you have completed the gaming rehab programme, it is important to have the support you need to stay on track. Recovery Lighthouse provides one year’s free aftercare for all our clients comprising weekly group therapy sessions after you leave our centre. This is to ensure that you have the support and guidance you need to stay on top of your addiction and give you the best possible chance of success.

Why choose Recovery Lighthouse for gaming rehab?

Our gaming rehab programmes are all provided at our inpatient recovery centre where you will stay as a resident for the duration of your treatment. Inpatient addiction treatment is widely considered to be more effective than outpatient treatment for a number of reasons:

  • An immersive and understanding environment which will enable you to focus on recovery
  • The availability of professional support 24 hours a day
  • No access to games or other triggers
  • The opportunity to build relationships with peers who are also recovering from gaming addiction

At Recovery Lighthouse, we understand that gaming addiction can be difficult to break, but with the right help, it is possible to regain control of your life and make positive changes. If you or someone close to you needs help with a gaming addiction, don’t hesitate to get in touch with us today.

Frequently asked questions

Is gaming addiction a recognised mental health condition?
The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) includes gaming addiction as a condition that requires more study, signifying its recognition as an issue requiring attention. As we move forward in time, it is likely that gaming addiction will be officially labelled as a recognised mental health disorder due to the ever-growing evidence of its harmful effects.
How much gaming constitutes a gaming addiction?
There is no exact answer to this question as the amount of gaming required to constitute an addiction will vary from person to person. However, if you find that you are unable to control your urge to play games and it is beginning to interfere with other aspects of your life such as work or school, then there may be a problem.
Can gaming addiction be lethal?
Gaming addiction can have potentially deadly consequences as financial and mental health issues caused or intensified by the condition can lead to suicide. Furthermore, some individuals have died from not eating or sleeping appropriately due to excessive gaming. Unfortunately, in 2010, an infant girl of three months perished from starvation in South Korea after her parents became preoccupied with their gaming habit and forgot to feed her.