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How to Deal With Child Gaming Addiction & Is Video Game Addiction Real?
Play is an innate human drive that begins in very early childhood, but today gameplay has largely been transferred from the real world to online. Whilst gaming is a pleasurable pastime, it is one of the fastest-growing forms of Internet addiction, and research suggests that excessive online gaming may lead to symptoms commonly experienced by substance addicts such as changes in mood, craving, and tolerance. Since gaming is particularly appealing to children and adolescents, young people are more at risk than other groups of developing gaming addiction.
The establishment of specialised treatment centres in South-East Asia, the US, and Europe reflects the growing need for professional help and that video game addiction is very much real. In Japan, ‘fasting camps’ have been set up to help individuals suffering from internet and gaming addiction by cutting them off from technology completely. In the UK, 745 people have been referred to the National Centre for Gaming Disorders since it opened in October 2019, the only clinic of its kind in the UK.
How Can You Tell if Your Child Is Addicted?
It is normal for a child to enjoy playing video games in moderation, even for prolonged periods. Computer games have become an ever-increasing part of many adolescents’ day-to-day lives, but it is very common to worry if the time your child spends in front of the screen is too much.
Like an addiction to alcohol or drugs, online gamers show several classic signs of addiction that are important to look out for when considering if your child is addicted to gaming. They might become preoccupied with gaming, lie about their gaming, lose interest in other activities to the game, withdraw from family and friends to game, change their mood through gaming, develop a need to game more and more, experience withdrawal symptoms when they stop gaming and use gaming as a means of psychological escape.
If your child is displaying these behaviours, they may well be addicted to gaming and it is important to seek help.
Who Is at Risk of Becoming Addicted to Video Games?
The gaming market is worth billions of pounds illustrating the mass appeal of online video games. Research indicates that a number of risk factors are associated with Internet gaming addiction such as certain personality traits, motivations, and structural game characteristics. The personality traits most commonly associated with Internet addiction include neuroticism (anxiety, worry, fear, anger, frustration, envy, jealousy, guilt, depressed mood, and loneliness), aggression and hostility, and sensation-seeking. However, if a gamer is also conscientious and extraverted, they are less likely to develop problems with gaming.
The gaming market is worth billions of pounds illustrating the mass appeal of online video games. Anyone could become a gaming addict but research indicates that a number of risk factors are associated with Internet gaming addiction such as certain personality traits, motivations, and structural game characteristics. The personality traits most commonly associated with Internet addiction include neuroticism (anxiety, worry, fear, anger, frustration, envy, jealousy, guilt, depressed mood, and loneliness), aggression and hostility, and sensation-seeking. However, if a gamer is also conscientious and extraverted, they are less likely to develop problems with gaming.
Treating Addiction Since 1988
The reasons for video gaming may be an important indicator of potential risk for internet gaming addiction and the following motivations are most commonly associated with the disorder:
- coping with daily stressors
- online relationships
Because a sense of play is associated with children and adolescents, they are the group most vulnerable to video game addiction. In South Korea, internet gaming addiction is viewed as a significant concern for public health, and up to 24% of children who have been diagnosed with internet addiction are hospitalised.
What Should You Do if You Think Your Child Has a Gaming Disorder?
Early intervention is important if your child is to find freedom from a gaming addiction long-term. If you recognise the signs of a gaming disorder in your child, an addiction treatment programme can help.
Treatment for gaming addiction is like the approach used for treating other addictions and behavioural health concerns such as gambling, compulsive eating, alcoholism and drug misuse. Many residential, day and outpatient addiction programmes are offered and some centres are specifically aimed at young people.
Programmes vary but treatment for a gaming disorder will most likely involve abstinence from screens and gaming, individual therapy, group therapy, family therapy, complementary therapies, and specialised therapies if you are struggling with trauma, grief or a co-occurring disorder.
Eight Signs of Gaming Addiction in Children
There are a number of warning signs to watch for when it comes to recognising gaming addiction in children. These signs can be helpful to understand the condition but it is always important to seek medical advice to receive a diagnosis.
- Preoccupation with Gaming — a child is thinking about gaming activity, incomplete missions, and playing the next game; gaming has become the dominant daily activity for a child.
- Tolerance — a child needs to spend increasing amounts of time gaming. This may be justified as needing to complete goals to achieve satisfaction or to socialise.
- Withdrawal symptoms — when gaming is taken away, a child experiences irritability, anxiety, boredom, cravings, sadness, and/or general dissatisfaction with life without gaming.
- Loss of control — a child makes unsuccessful attempts to stop gaming for a certain period of time at the request of their parents, and continues gaming despite understanding the negative consequences for them and their families.
- Loss of interests — a child loses interest in other hobbies, extra-curricular activities, socialising, or forms of entertainment as a result of gaming.
- Deception — a child begins to lie to friends and family members, therapists, or others regarding time spent gaming and may begin gaming in secret.
- Change mood — a child games to escape or relieve negative feelings and becomes dissatisfied, anxious, sad, bored, and even aggressive when they can’t game.
- Loss of relationships — a child’s gaming activities have led to the loss of significant relationships, jobs, and educational and/or career opportunities. They may be prioritising online relationships over offline relationships.
What Causes Gaming Addiction?
Video games are designed to be addictive by making use of state-of-the-art behavioural psychology to keep gamers engaged or ‘hooked.’ Changes to the brain, escapism, a sense of community, and instant gratification all contribute to the development of gaming addiction.
Video games are extremely stimulating and cause high levels of dopamine to be released in the brain. This increased dopamine creates a sense of pleasure in the short term but high exposure over time can cause the brain to become desensitised. This means gamers need to play for longer to feel the same level of satisfaction, or pleasure.
Because of the immersive nature of gaming, gamers often play to escape the stress of everyday life or dampen overwhelming feelings. This stops them from being able to regulate their emotions without the use of gaming which, long term, compounds the issue as they experience more unmanageability.
Gaming is a way to build communities and virtually connect with like-minded people, particularly if gamers struggle to maintain offline relationships, are naturally introverted, or feel anxious in offline social settings. Video games fulfil the need for social interaction without having to meet face to face, and the sense of anonymity can feel safer than offline intimacy.
Gaming can be addictive because gamers receive an instant sense of gratification by completing in-game challenges that are achievable and consistent. This reward system ultimately leads to reinforced behaviour, more gaming.
Can You Get Withdrawal Symptoms From Gaming Addiction?
As with any addiction, when an individual has developed a tolerance and is forced to stop Internet gaming, they may experience withdrawal symptoms such as irritability, anxiety, sadness, boredom, demotivation, and craving for gaming. These symptoms decrease over time with long-term abstinence, therapy, and peer support.
If you think your child might be addicted to gaming, you are not alone. Gaming is a prevalent public health concern for which an increasing number of people are receiving help.
If you wish to discuss your concerns, call our trained admission team on 0808 149 6990. They are here to listen to your story and have an obligation-free chat on our addiction treatment programme. Recovery from gaming addiction is possible with the right support for you, your child, and extended your family.
How Do You Know if Your Child Has a Gaming Addiction?
Your child will begin to display the signs of addiction such as preoccupation with gaming, using video games to change their mood, feeling like they need to game more frequently, and withdrawal symptoms when they stop playing such as anxiety, depression, demotivation, boredom, and anger.
What Are the Common Symptoms of Video Game Addiction?
The common symptoms of video game addiction are a preoccupation with gaming, development of tolerance, lack of control over gaming, loss of control, lying, loss of relationships, loss of career and educational opportunities, and a lack of interest in other hobbies.
What Are the Effects of Gaming Addiction on Children?
When gaming has become an addiction children become more isolated from friends and loved ones, they might struggle with mood, are perhaps aggressive, don’t perform as well at school, stop seeing friends offline, and their lives start to revolve around gaming.