If you are concerned that you or someone you know has a problem with video game addiction and/or compulsive internet use, here are resources that can help.
The Warning Signs…
- Are you spending increasing amounts of time playing video games and less time engaging with outside world?
- Have you noticed that your gaming habits are starting to have a negative impact on your life, in areas such as work, physical health, and relationships?
- Have you noticed yourself becoming preoccupied with gaming and experiencing mood swings, such as excitement and elation when looking forward to gaming and then later symptoms of withdrawal, such as irritation, anger, or depression?
- Do you often find yourself justifying and rationalizing your behavior around gaming to yourself and others?
- Or, perhaps you have noticed that your relationships online are starting to seem more real then your in-person friendships?
If you answered, “Yes” to several of these questions it is quite possible that you are experiencing a process addiction to video games and/or the internet.
Addicted to Technology…
Technology is moving at a dizzying pace and has now become embedded into the fabric of our everyday life. For folks exposed to these technologies at an early age, this can cause some significant problems.
Now that the endlessly novel and enticing online world is available to us in the palm of our hands, and increasing amounts of our lives happen over the web, many are finding ourselves living more and more in the virtual world. However, it is important to understand that this comes at a cost, as we spend more time in front of screens viewing little bits of hyper-stimulating information designed to entice the viewer to become lost down the rabbit hole, our brains literally change in chemistry and structure.
Video Game Addiction
Video games are fun! That’s why we play them. There is such a thing as healthy video game use, and many studies have demonstrated certain benefits linked to gaming, such as hand eye coordination and problem solving under stress. However, for many people their gaming behavior can become compulsive and out of control, creating a video game addiction.
Many modern video games interact with the brain more like a drug then most people are aware. The video games of today are quite unlike those of years past. They are often online, involve real time interaction with peers, and contain in-your-face hyper-stimulating sound and imagery. Additionally, game developers have learned ways to expertly tap into the pleasure/reward center of your brain, entrapping you in an addictive cycle that gains strength with each minute spent in front of the screen.
Video game and internet addiction is a very real psychological phenomenon, and produces clear physiological changes in the brain and body that lead toward the creation of a cycle of addictive behavior. If left unrestrained and untreated these addictions have the potential to drastically alter your life’s course, decreasing motivation, stunting development, and greatly increasing the risk for other addictions in the future.
Gaming and internet addiction is unfortunately now very common. If you are concerned that you may have a problem with a technology addiction it is important that you seek out the support of a mental health professional trained to assess and treat behavioral addiction.
To understand more about how video games and technology change our brains and create addictive patterns, take a look at my article on Technology Addiction.
Help is Available
Counseling for video game or internet addiction, especially if it is caught early, can be a very effective means of treatment. If it is determined that an addiction is involved, the counselor can explain how technology addiction works, explore the impact of the addiction, and help make a shift in behavior as quickly as possible to give your brain a chance to reset and rewire. After the initial phase of treatment one begins to explore and transform the roots of the addiction in order to prevent a relapse later in life.
Because modern technology is most likely here to stay, the ultimate goal of treatment is helping you to create a healthy balanced relationship with technology. This always involves setting healthy boundaries and limits, and can involve technology breaks, or periods of “sobriety.”
Perhaps You Have Some Questions or Concerns?
Are Video Games Really That Big of a Problem?
At this point you may be thinking “Some of this might apply to me, but I’ve got it under control. Everyone plays video games, it can’t really be that bad, right?” If this rings true, I encourage you to take an honest look at your life and how your video gaming may be negatively impacting it. Compulsive long-term video gaming can create enduring changes in your brain and personality, which can also lead to greater susceptibility to other addictions.
Perhaps you have been gaming since you were a young child and don’t know what adult life is without it, but all your relationships seem to struggling? I assure you that if you suffer from any of the symptoms above, that life without video game addiction can be far more fulfilling and satisfying then you can imagine, and the road to recovery begins with finding the right process addictions counselor for you.
Can’t I Just Do This on My Own?
You may also be thinking, “Hey this is kind of making sense, and I think this applies to me, but is it really that hard to stop? Can’t I just do it on my own?” If you think you have what it takes to overcome your addiction, I encourage you to set a goal of two weeks of total gaming sobriety (a necessary step in recovery) and see how it goes. If you succeed I congratulate you! Go for three months next.
I think I could use some expert support, but I’m not sure if I have the money right now.
When considering if now is the right time to get support it is important to remember that your health and wellbeing are on the line and that waiting could make the problem worse. I like to think of counseling as a personal investment, that pays great dividends. Because addiction to technology can lead to a host of other problems, such as future addictions, low motivation, poor financial success, and a lack of healthy meaningful relationships, it is important to treat the addiction as soon as possible; in doing so you save yourself from current, as well as, potential future pain and suffering.
If you are still uncertain, it can be helpful to know that your initial consultation is 100% risk free. This means that if you come to therapy and, either you don’t feel it is a good fit, or I assess that you are not suffering from addiction to video games and counseling is not needed, you will not be billed.
Only You Can Make a Change…
Only you can make a change and overcome this addiction. I have seen time and time again individuals realize, perhaps for the first time, the full extent of the addiction, including the harm that is being done and what is at stake for their future, and then become motivated to make a shift. I have been trained in the assessment and treatment of process addictions, such as video gaming, and can give you all the tools and information necessary to make a shift, however you have to open the door and walk through.
If you suspect that you or someone you know is struggling with addictive or compulsive behavior around gaming or internet use, I encourage you not to wait to seek support. Please contact me and schedule your initial consultation.
Also, please feel free to contact me with any questions or concerns regarding the treatment of technology addiction.