Characterized as one among several different types of tech addiction, teen gaming addiction is a specific behavioral disorder characterized by unhealthy amounts of video gaming, or nearly constant thoughts of playing video games. Gaming addiction is often present as a co-occurring disorder, in a person also diagnosed with, or experiencing, other mental or mood disorders, such as depression, manic depression, or anxiety.
A gaming addiction is separate from a gambling addiction, but they often feature the same core problems. Many video games utilize purposefully addictive “gameplay hooks” to get audiences to play for extended periods of time.
Gaming addiction most commonly develops as part of an inability to adjust to environments or social interaction, especially after moving, or in the presence of co-dependent conditions such as depression and social anxiety. An addiction may develop if a teen turns to games as their only source of interaction with others, as well as a source of comfort during times of stress, or as a reward after a negative experience.
Excessive gaming and gaming addiction are separate, as some gamers can play for hours at a time yet quit playing altogether if they become too busy with other responsibilities.
Gaming addiction may also develop in teens with a family history of other types of addiction, as they may be biologically inclined to become dependent on addictive activities to cope with stress or pain. The type of video game also influences how an addiction might develop.
One of the more common type of games people become addicted to are MMORPGs, or massively multi-player online role-playing games. The nature of these games can easily lead to addiction because they’re highly competitive, highly interactive, and happen in real time, which mimics a level of community and real social interaction.
This often serves as an alternative community to people with gaming addictions, as it’s very common for them to also suffer from extreme levels of anxiety and difficulty with social interactions, as well as high levels of loneliness. This alternate world allows people a “safe” place to try on different personas and behaviors, without being judged accordingly. While this sort of play can be harmless in moderate amounts, for people with the disorder, such avoidance of the real world for sake of the virtual, creates problems with the people missing out on fundamental and necessary growth, both individually and socially.
It’s important to understand as a friend or parent that video games are not the root of the problem, but that the problem lies in what these games are replacing in a person’s mind. To become addicted, a person has to turn towards video games not only as a form of entertainment, but as a coping mechanism.
Unlike substance abuse, where a substance can form an addiction even in the mind of an emotionally healthy person, video games are not exceptionally addictive. They are addictive in the sense that they can replace healthy coping mechanisms and become unhealthy in excessive amounts. Other behavior, like exercise and eating, can also become unhealthy if driven to the extreme. While helping a person cut back on their gaming and even eliminate the activity entirely can help a lot, it’s important to address the issues that spawned the addiction as well.
of U.S. households play video games
of kids in the U.S. that play video games are addicted
hours is the average time per week video games are played
Treatment for teen gaming addiction disorders is based on treatment for addiction. Therefore, therapists will help teens gradually make progress through the steps of:
Like addiction treatment, it can take time for gaming addiction treatment to set in, and there may be relapses. It takes time for therapy to help a teen completely correct their behavior, and even if they intellectually understand that their addiction has become a serious problem, their instincts must adjust to a new way of thinking. Addiction, for many, is a retreat from pain or stress – completely forgetting that line of thinking takes time. Even then, there is no guarantee that someone with a history of gaming addiction can ever play video games again without being pulled back into that level of addiction.
The first step to addressing teen gaming addiction is removing a teen from their video games. From there, however, the real work begins. Here at Paradigm Malibu, we help teens who struggle to cope with stress and real-life responsibilities work through the anxieties and issues that make them turn to video games instead of working through their problems. Teens turn towards gaming to escape reality, but escaping reality has dire consequences that often pile up in adulthood and become quickly unmanageable.
Many teens understand this but can’t help themselves. That is why we help them. Through talk therapy, group therapy, and a large variety of different stress management techniques, we try to help teens find healthier hobbies and habits to work through their problems constructively, rather than running away from them. Time management is a crucial part of treating gaming addiction, as it helps teens ease back into gaming without letting their hobby overwhelm their other priorities and responsibilities. Paradigm Malibu also works with parents to inform them on how best to create a home environment that encourages finishing chores and attending to responsibilities before playing games.
Paradigm dug really deep at getting to the root of my son’s addiction issues. They also involved us in the process and worked through a lot of family issues.
- Dave Z.
Are only multiplayer games addictive?
No. Any video game can be addictive, including a single player game with limited to no analogues for relationships or other social interaction. It’s not so much that video games create an addiction, but that they can potentially feed a void that some teens experience shortly before turning to games as away to feed that void or escape their pain.
All video games are enjoyable to some degree, unless they’re a bad game. A good game makes you want to play, and it’s normal to think about gaming when you’re not busy or when schoolwork becomes boring or unengaging. But that does not mean it’s okay to drop everything to start playing video games. The difference between healthy gaming and an unhealthy addiction is not the game, but how you integrate gaming into your daily life.
Why is being addicted to video games a bad thing?
Playing a lot of video games, in and of itself, isn’t really the problem. The real problems are the many things that get neglected, ignored, missed out on, or hurt, because you’re playing video games. Chances are, if you’re addicted, then there’s a decent list of things that have suffered because of it: family relationships, school work, other responsibilities, and friendships are just a few. Even if you’ve gained virtual relationships or friendships through the gaming community, neglecting real life relationships and friendships can cause a lot of harm, and signifies that you’re losing touch with reality. Learning to balance play with life is not only a necessary skill on the way to adulthood, but important for maintaining normal mental health.