Too much of a good thing: When video games become a problem.
Gaming is a hobby for most people, with many benefits including socialising with friends, relaxing, and having fun! For others, gaming may lead to problems across several areas of their life. The World Health Organisation has included Gaming Disorder in the latest edition of the International Classification of Diseases (ICD-11, 11th edition, 2018) in recognition of increasing evidence of the potential harmful effects of video games for some.
It can be difficult to work out whether gaming is just a normal hobby, or whether it is starting to become more of a problem for you. If someone else is unhappy with your gaming habits, or you are noticing that its consuming more of your time and thinking, it may be intruding on other areas of your life.
What do the symptoms of gaming disorder look like?
Noticing a change in habits is one of the more helpful ways to determine whether there is a problem. Here are some questions to ask yourself in relation to your gaming:
- Do I spend time thinking about games, even when I’m not playing?
- Do I get frustrated, angry, or sad when I can’t play games?
- Have I noticed a need to spend more time gaming?
- Have I tried to stop gaming, without success?
- Do I still participate in other hobbies or interests that I used to enjoy, or am I just gaming?
- Am I continuing to play games, despite noticing it may be becoming a problem?
- Have I lied to others about how much I’ve played games?
- Have I missed out on other things in life because I was playing games instead?
If you have answered yes to more than half of these, your gaming may have become more problematic.
The biggest warning sign is if you notice yourself prioritising gaming over other areas of your life, and this trend has worsened over the past few months or more. For example, you might stay up late to fit in more time to play games, which means you are tired for school, university or work the next day and can’t focus. Similarly, you might try and find ways to play games instead of doing homework or chores. You might even forego other hobbies they used to enjoy to play games instead, like skipping soccer practice or not wanting to catch up with friends. If you notice a pattern of behaviour like this, it could mean their gaming is becoming a problem for you.
Can I deal with gaming disorder symptoms myself?
Thankfully yes, being aware that your gaming is becoming a problem is the first step to addressing it. Often when people start playing games more frequently, they stop doing other activities that they might have otherwise enjoyed. So revisiting previous hobbies or interests, planning more activities with friends, or trying new things to do for fun other than gaming, are all helpful steps towards gaming in a more balanced way. Focusing on other interests is often more effective that taking a negative or punitive approach like restricting or banning gaming all together. This approach is also more likely to be sustainable in the long term. Something has to fill the void that gaming has left, and its more likely that you would return to gaming if other activities or fun things aren’t considered in addition to cutting down your gaming.
If this suggestion doesn’t help, or isn’t working as well as you would have liked, then consider having a conversation with your GP or seek a referral to a Clinical Psychologist to assist with managing your gaming habits and determine if they are harmful for you.
Written by Dr Ben Pearcy, Clinical Psychology Registrar
If you would like to learn more about gaming disorder or to book an appointment with Dr Ben Pearcy or another one of our experienced clinical psychologists, contact our friendly client team by calling 6143 4499 or email via our contact page.
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