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Gaming Disorder: Video Game Obsession

Today’s question comes from a guy who wants some help with video games. This post/video is for guys and girls who play a lot of video games and they’re wondering whether or not it’s healthy to do so.

It’s come up for a couple of my clients now and I want to address it. One of them has written through to me and said “What are your thoughts on guys playing video games, is it no different to just watching a movie or reading a book? Or is it a huge waste of time because you’re not accomplishing anything in the real world? I can’t decide if I should quit gaming altogether.”

So first off I want to say that I’m no expert in video gaming but to me there appears to be 3 main types of video game players.

1: Professional – someone who does it for a living – they get paid to do it. So you’re only a professional if you’re getting paid to do it.

2: Casual – somebody who plays them maybe 1 or 2 hours per day on average, like a hobby, it’s like hiking or watching netflix – they can take it or leave it. It’s just something they do when there’s down-time.

3: Video game addict – someone who is bordering on addiction. They use it to escape from real life. They’re playing it more than a couple of hours per day.

We’re going to look at that particular type today, to help you figure out whether or not that’s you.

OK so how do you know when playing video games is a problem?

It’s like any other addiction; you look for the warning signs. I used to work with people in addictions and rehabilitation, and there are some key warning signs that show the difference between a casual user and an addict.

One is your goals are neglected. So you have big dreams about socializing, about building a business, about developing your health, and there is not enough time for you to do these things because of how much time you’re playing video games, and how much energy your video games are taking. You might feel that there’s a risk that you’re using video games to get away from the discomfort of working on your goals. That would be a warning sign.

Another one would be when there’s other binge-like behaviours happening. So maybe while you’re playing you’re that classic guy who’s got the headset, and he’s got the Dorito’s packet, and the chocolate, and the Mountain Dew… and you’re just bingeing. And when you finish playing you jump on the porn and you binge on that – you’re a Binger. You’re somebody who does massive amounts of harmful pieces of behaviour for a long period of time.

So if you see patterns of bingeing in your life, and computer games seems to be just another one of those, then it’s probably a problem for you.

Another warning sign is that it’s disruptive. You’re staying up really late at night and it’s making you perform poorly at work. You’re neglecting your friends. You’re neglecting going to gym and your health. And like we said earlier, you’re not working on your goals.

Ifou can clearly see that your life would be a lot better if you weren’t spending so much time playing games and you can clearly see that these are the warning signs of addiction, then it’s time to rethink your video game obsession. A casual piece of behaviour simply doesn’t cause these problems.

And the biggest warning sign, if you’re really not sure, is to ask yourself

“Can I control myself?”

Are you sure that you can?

One way to test this is to stop for a month. You know you won’t die if you don’t play video games for a month, right? This can be a great way to prove to yourself that you’re safe. But don’t just stop for month; have the console and the games right there ready to play, and see if you can resist. Don’t tell anyone you’re stopping. Don’t set up any accountability barriers. Just see if you can just get by without any feelings of withdrawal.

If it really makes you uncomfortable to stop playing then we’re looking at an addiction pattern in your brain. If you were a casual player, the thing could sit there collecting dust and you’d just carry on with your life.

So that’s how you know when it’s a problem and if it’s a problem – if that’s what you identify it as  – then you’ve gotta treat it like a drug addiction, because that’s what it essentially is.

If you’re getting a pleasure-reward from games; if you’re getting a lot of dopamine hits and adrenaline hits from the excitement of the game; or you’re just numbing out, not feeling anything while you play for hours on end, then that’s essentially no different to cocaine, heroin, weed, and alcohol. It’s causing the same neurochemical reaction.

So probably the most effective way is to remove access. At a time of strengthm get rid of your console, give it away, block the apps that you’re using – whatever it takes to make it as hard as possible for you to play games.

That time that you usually have set aside for playing games? Pack that full of healthy activities, preferably social ones. There’s a definite correlation between video game addicts and social isolation. Video game addicts often have Aspergers and other conditions that make it difficult to socialise – not impossible, just difficult. So replace video games with socializing
or dance classes, hiking, hanging out with friends, or just even going somewhere where there’s people and hanging out.

And try to identify what it is that you were using video games to avoid. What were video games an escape from? That’s the thing you need to go towards and deal with. If you can go towards that and deal with it then video games can end up just being a casual pleasure rather than a drug.

If anything I’ve said about the reasons for using video games concerns you, then you’ve gotta listen to your brain and body. Why does it concern you? If it was healthy for you, you wouldn’t be getting that concern.

Please leave your comments and thoughts below, give me as much feedback as possible, share your story.

And if you want your questions answered by me personally email dan@brojo.co.nz if you want more support.

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