The question we usually hear first is “how do I know if I have a video game addiction?” and our short answer is if it’s causing a problem, it is a problem.
Benefits of Playing Video Games
Playing video games has a lot of benefits. According to the article “Role of Video Games in Improving Health-Related Outcomes,” eligible studies used video games to provide physical therapy, psychological therapy, improved disease self-management, health education, distraction from discomfort, and also increased physical activity. Gaming itself is never a problem, but gaming addiction is.
How Do We Define Video Game Addiction?
In psychiatry, the line that defines if something causes an addiction boils down to these two questions:
1. Is X getting in the way of what you want to do or what you’re supposed to be doing?
2. Does X impair a problem on you, physically or psychologically?
If the answer is yes, then we say it is a problem.
Gaming serves as a coping mechanism for de-stressing. Suppose that you had a long and stressful day at work. Playing video games for an hour or two, like any other recreational activity, can help you de-stress. The main way that gaming harms you is that it can manipulate how your brain interprets “fun.” When you game for hours every day, things you used to find enjoyable may seem ‘boring’. This can cause a general disengagement from the real world. Video game addiction causes problems mainly in the following three fields: academic/professional, health (mental and physical), and relationships.
How Is Video Game Addiction Problematic?
We would call video gaming problematic if any of the following are true for a sustained period as a result of an increase in time spent playing video games:
- Academic work is not of the same quality as before,
- Slipping grades,
- Inability to focus or grasp concepts like you once did,
- Not growing your professional capacity,
- Motivation and productivity are suffering
- Unprecedented weight gain or weight loss due
- Unable to maintain healthy, functional relationships with your family or friends
The worst consequence of video game addiction is that it sets you back from becoming who you want to be. Many gamers are smart, creative, and have the potential to succeed in their lives. However, when academics/professional lives, health and relationships suffer, gamers suffer. It can take 3-5 years to get your life back together if you’ve missed the boat on things like medical school applications, have poor health and are socially isolated from the people who can help you.
Identifying the Issue and How To Get Help
Video games themselves do not cause addiction. For example, I have a friend who plays 30 hours of video games per week. That friend also earns seven figures a year. The real problem that we need to address and solve is the addiction that people develop due to playing video games. To see if you meet the working clinical definition for video game addiction, please click here.