Video Game Addiction? When Hobby Crosses into Habit

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One of the most common topics brought to me by parents of teen clients is that of video games.  Questions of “how much is too much?” or “when is this a serious problem?” are some of the most frequent. Video games are big business.  According to a report from SuperData Research, games generated $91 billion worldwide in 2016.  Games can be an enjoyable outlet, a stress reliever, and a way to connect with friends.  They can also be a major source of stress in families when they become a subject of arguments and a power struggle.  It can be difficult to identify when an enjoyment of gaming becomes unhealthy.

The term “addiction” is frequently used when discussing the over use of video games.  However, video game addiction is not an official diagnosis.  In the most recent Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5), Internet Gaming Disorder is identified as a condition for further study.  The proposed criteria can be helpful in determining when an individual’s gaming habits may be problematic.

 

Individuals who display 5 or more of the following criteria likely have high risk patterns of gaming. Each is followed with what these criteria might look like in your teenager.

  1. Preoccupation with Internet games. I don’t have school tomorrow so I’m going to play right when I get upI wasn’t playing earlier; I was watching videos about the game.
  2. Withdrawal symptoms when internet gaming is taken away. This vacation is lame, there’s nothing to do here.
  3. More hours are played each day or week to feel the same benefit. I had to play longer yesterday so I don’t lose my level.
  4. Unsuccessful attempts to control the participation in Internet games. I don’t really need to cutback, I’m just playing with some friends.
  5. Loss of interest in other hobbies. I don’t have anything else to do. Do you want me to just sit around bored?
  6. Continued excessive use of Internet games despite knowledge of psychosocial problems. Yeah, we broke up, but that doesn’t mean I need to play less. 
  7. Has deceived family members, therapists, or others regarding the amount of gaming. I only played for a few hours last weekend
  8. Use of Internet games to escape or relieve a negative mood. School was really stressful today, I need to play to clear my head.
  9. Has jeopardized or lost a significant relationship, job, or educational opportunity because of gaming. I didn’t even need that class to graduate, it’s no big deal.

If these criteria seem familiar, it might be a great time to talk to your child about their gaming and explore new solutions.  Dealing with any compulsive or addictive behavior can be a difficult process.  Working with a therapist can help families to explore solutions or unlock the hidden needs the individual is meeting through gaming.  As with any issue you’re facing, reach out to your support system and professional help when needed to make it through