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  • Writer's pictureDan Wethington MS, LPC

Video Game/Internet Addiction

Updated: Jul 12, 2022

Have you ever thought that you might have a problem putting down the remote, turning off the computer, or putting your phone away? Video games and other internet resources can be a lot of fun and can be very engaging on many levels. Many people have a social network online that is quite meaningful to them, and some people, especially teenagers and children, spend a majority of their social time playing video games with friends or browsing social media. When I am helping people who are struggling with spending too much time on devices or in video games, I want them to understand that they do not have to leave this outlet behind entirely, but that they may benefit from having more balance in their lives, so that they can continue to enjoy this leisure activity without having it dominate their lives or prevent them from being able to engage in daily responsibilities.

What is Video Game/Internet Addiction?

Currently, the DSM-5 which is the book that is used to diagnose mental health disorders, lists Internet Gaming Disorder as a mental health condition that needs to be researched more before it can be included as a formal diagnosis, but that it is recognized to cause a significant disruption to some lives. In my experience as a clinician, Internet/Video game addiction can be very influential in a client's life and can lead to challenges in completing daily life responsibilities, cause problems with work or school performance, damage relationships, and lead to isolation and lower self-esteem. The DSM -5 lists the following symptoms and encourages researchers to complete more work toward understanding the implications of this condition and how it impacts public health.

Symptoms of Internet Gaming Disorder

  • Preoccupation with internet games: The individual spends excessive time thinking of playing games and the games they have previously experienced.

  • Withdrawal symptoms when gaming is taken away: The person struggles with feelings of sadness, irritability, anxiety, or other negative emotions when they are unable to play games.

  • Tolerance: People have a tendency to spend more and more time playing over time.

  • Unsuccessful attempts to limit the behavior in the past: The person has tried and been unsuccessful at limiting their use of internet games.

  • Loss of interest in previous hobbies/interests as a result of their internet gaming behavior.

  • Continued excessive use of internet games despite their understanding of how this impacts them negatively.

  • Made attempts to conceal or deceive their firmly members, friends, or therapist to minimize the amount that they play video games.

  • A person uses internet gaming to avoid experiencing negative emotions such as shame, guilt, anxiety or feelings of helplessness.

  • A person has jeopardized or lost a significant relationship or job/academic opportunity due to their participation in internet games.

Prevalence of Video Game/Internet Addiction

Internet gaming disorder is a relatively new topic of study and there are not many studies about this disorder at this time. However, there are indications that there is a global prevalence of gaming disorder that ranges between 1.4%-3.3%. This condition is a lot more common for males than females and it also seems to be more common amongst adolescents and young adults vs. older adults. If you feel that you might be experiencing a problem with video game addiction, you are not alone and there are many people who struggle with addiction around the world.

Causes of Video Game/Internet Addiction

Video game and internet addiction is still being studied to understand the cause of this mental health condition. There seems to be some evidence that there may be environmental and genetic factors involved in the development of this condition. The presence of media devices and internet availability are correlated with higher levels of this disorder and it seems to impact adolescents and young adults to a greater degree than other populations.

In my personal experience as a clinician, I have found that this disorder seems to develop as a result of dissatisfaction with life and the belief that one is not capable of achieving their goals in every-day life. These individuals find that they are able to establish meaningful goals and accomplish them efficiently in the games, and this acts as a substitute for achieving goals in life. In addition, these individuals may have other mental health symptoms such as panic disorder with agoraphobia, depression, or social anxiety that prevents them from being able to comfortably leave their home and engage in social activities and other daily living tasks that people generally find to be meaningful. These individuals may gain some purpose and social gratification through the games and the social communities that they build within them.

Video Game/Internet Addiction Treatment

As stated above, video game addiction can be caused by genetic and environmental factors, dissatisfaction with life, or it can be partially impacted by other mental health symptoms that make it difficult for a person to achieve their goals in their lives. At Arise Counseling Services, I provide treatment for these factors. I help people to explore the underlying causes of their addiction such as social isolation, history of social exclusion, any problems with panic disorder or anxiety, and any other dissatisfaction with life. There are many different ways that I can help once these causes are identified, and I will list some of them below.

Treating Video Game/Internet Addiction

  • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT): We will work together to analyze your thoughts, feelings, and behaviors to examine how these impact one another and cause your symptoms to be worse. Then we will work to change how you think about issues in your life and what you believe about yourself and the world.

  • Behavioral activation: We will set up clear behaviors that you can practice to help you to overcome your addiction such as setting an appropriate time schedule for gaming, scheduling other activities to help you get back on track, getting more physical exercise, eating routine meals, etc.

  • Treating trauma and exploring the past: When you feel safe and comfortable, we will examine any traumatic experiences that you have had related to bullying, social ridicule or humiliations, or any other sensitive issues that could change how you view yourself so that you can stop having the effects of trauma intrude upon your daily life.

  • Narrative therapy: I encourage clients to examine their personal characteristics and life journey and to rewrite their story so that they can change the way that they look at themselves and the trajectory of their lives.

For more information

If you would like to learn more about any of the treatments above, please contact me and I would be happy to help. If you would like some professional help dealing with your video game addiction, feel free to schedule an appointment with me today or reach out to discuss your options. You should also subscribe to my blog and continue to follow because I intend to write more specific posts about the treatments that I use in the future.

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