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How to Tell the Difference Between a Video Game Addiction and Just Really Enjoying It

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Recently, the World Health Organization (WHO) classified video game addiction as a mental health condition. Combine that with many parents concerned about their child’s obsession with Fortnite, and once again video games are under the microscope. Questions once put to rest years ago are coming back up, like “Do video games cause violence in kids?”

So, people everywhere are crying out that video games are dangerous. That any kid who plays games for a few hours a day must be “addicted” according to their concerned parent. It’s a lot more complicated than that, though, with most people who play games for several hours a day not being addicted to it.

But what really is video game addiction? Is it a real thing? What does it look like and what can you do to prevent it? How does an addiction differ from simply playing video games as a main hobby? Whether you are the gamer worried that you might be addicted, or a parent concerned for their child, here’s information that could help you understand what video game addiction really is.

What Is An Addiction?

It’s important to understand what an addiction is before you start labeling somebody as an addict. An addiction is not simply doing an activity on a regular basis, it’s when that one thing takes over their life. It’s a complex mental condition where addicts have a severe focus on a specific thing to the point that their entire life revolves around it. When somebody is addicted to drugs, their entire life is focused on getting more drugs. Other important aspects of a healthy life, like spending time with friends, working, resting, and more are sacrificed for their addiction.

Addiction in any form is dangerous. It changes how people behave, take care of themselves, and think. If you, or somebody you know, is addicted to anything, from drugs to video games, get professionals involved. They can help better diagnose an addiction and get the person the help they need.

What addiction isn’t is simply choosing to play video games on a regular basis. A child playing a game for a few hours every evening is no more addicted than an adult is watching TV for a few hours every night would be. It’s simply choosing an activity they enjoy. Just because somebody plays video games a lot does not mean they are addicted.

Signs of Video Game Addiction

Just like any kind of addiction, there are warning signs to watch out for, both in your own life and those around you. Since there is debate around the validity of video game addiction and how to diagnose it, each case will be unique. Here are some general signs to watch out for:

  • Obsessive thoughts or behavior: It’s the only thing they think or talk about. Show zero interest in other hobbies, subjects, or people. They put video games before other important things like family, friends, work, or school.
  • Not Caring About Damages Caused By Addiction: If somebody doesn’t care that video games are hurting them physically, mentally, or socially, it could be a sign of addiction. For example, developing arthritis or tendonitis from playing games too long and not taking steps to prevent it. Similarly, not taking normal breaks from gaming to do things like eating, sleeping, bathing.
  • Mood swings when going a long time without playing video games.
  • Unwilling to commit to activities that take them away from playing video games for long periods of time.

Don’t qualify a person’s addiction simply because they play a lot of video games. A person can play video games for 8 hours a day and not be addicted, as long as it doesn’t consume their life. A good test to see if you or a loved one is addicted is to go a long period of time without playing video games at all. If you see massive changes to attitude, health, or behavior with going a few days or a week without games, there might be an addiction problem.

Dangers of Extreme Gaming Addiction

In the United States, and most countries, video game addiction is not really an issue. For real life examples of full blown video game addiction, we can look over to countries like Japan, Taiwan, and South Korea. Video game addiction is a serious problem in these countries to an extent unseen in America. People can die because they play a game for days on end, barely eating enough to keep going and skipping sleep to keep playing.

What Can You Do to Help

Often, the person who has the addiction either won’t admit it or even notice there is a problem. If you truly think a loved one, whether it’s a friend, spouse, child, or roommate, is addicted, you need to try and help them. Remember, simply playing a lot of games doesn’t mean they are addicted, use the signs listed above to help guide you.

A good place to start is simply talking to the gamer. Tell them that you are worried and how you are seeing their gaming habits of hurting themselves. Have examples of times they did something that hurt themselves because of their gaming choices. If that doesn’t work, consider having an intervention with family and friends that also notice the harm their video gaming addiction. Remember that you can’t force a person to quit their addiction, they can only do it themselves, but you can support and love them through their struggles.

Once a person has admitted to their addiction, assist them in getting help. A therapist can guide a person though limiting their gaming to a healthy nature or even eliminate it fully.

For Worried Parents of Gaming Children

It’s always important for parents to actively monitor what their children are playing and for how long. Playing too many video games is not good for a growing child. Parents should encourage their kids to play outside, pursue other hobbies outside of gaming and get their schoolwork done. If it’s summer time, don’t let them spend the whole time glued to the TV, plan out activities that keep them moving and learning.

If you do notice a worrying trend, such as your child blowing off their friends or skipping school to play games, get involved. Actively limit their gaming or create stipulations to playing. While it’s unlikely your child will get addicted to gaming now, it might create habits that later on lead to a video game addiction that actively harms their life.

There is a lot more to learn about video game addiction, but it’s always better to be safe than sorry. Don’t wait for science to detail out exactly what makes a video game addict, be sure to monitor and help out those that might be addicted. If you think you are an addict, take steps to help yourself and consider working with a professional.

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The Author

Ben Allen

Ben Allen

Champion of Hyrule, defender of space, bane of demons, savior of light, and occasional pizza eater.