Gaming Addiction: Signs and Symptoms, Withdrawal and Treatment

What Is Gaming Addiction?

Gaming addiction is the compulsion to play video games (either on- or offline) to such an extent that it has negative effects upon your life, and being unable to stop playing even if you wish to. As with any addiction, it is fundamentally a disorder of the brain’s reward centres, which creates an abnormal level of certain chemicals (including dopamine, associated with pleasurable feelings) in the brain: addicts will experience an excess of dopamine when they play games – thus creating a sensation of happiness and wellbeing – and on the other hand will suffer from a deficiency thereof when they are unable to play, drastically lowering their mood and, over the long term, causing depression.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) has defined gaming addiction as “a pattern of persistent or recurrent gaming behaviour (‘digital gaming’ or ‘video-gaming’)”, defined by three criteria: the lack of control of playing video games, priority given to video games over other interests, and inability to stop playing video games even after being affected by negative consequences.” Gaming addiction can have highly detrimental effects on an addict’s life, causing them to give up previously valuable relationships in favour of the isolation which gaming entails, and potentially having serious financial consequences including the loss of jobs and the acquisition of huge debt to fund new games and/or in-game purchases.

Signs And Symptoms

While each case is unique, and what may represent problem gaming in one person may be unproblematic in another, if you are experiencing any of the following you may suffer from an addiction to gaming.

  • Thinking obsessively about gaming, even when engaged in other activities.
  • Losing interest in previously important and valued activities.
  • Going for long periods without sleep in favour of gaming.
  • Having very fluctuating and unhealthy eating habits.
  • Trying to stop gaming but being unable to do so.
  • Gaming to escape unpleasant or difficult situations which nevertheless need addressing.
  • Lying to yourself and others about how much time you spend gaming.
  • Losing valued relationships because of gaming.
  • Losing important job opportunities – or even jobs – because of gaming.
  • Experiencing significant academic problems because of gaming.
  • Experiencing negative withdrawal symptoms when you go any length of time without gaming.
  • Getting yourself into debt, or selling valuable assets, to keep funding your gaming habit.
  • Being unable to feel happy or content until you can complete a given section of a game or in-game activity.
  • Finding negative aspects of your personality – aggression, profanity – coming to the fore whilst communicating with others.
  • Finding relatively straightforward real-world activities (for example, shopping) difficult.
  • Finding it hard to communicate with other people outside a gaming situation.
  • Having bottles or similar vessels near you into which to urinate so you do not have to leave a game to go to the toilet.
  • Developing agoraphobia (fear of going outside/open spaces).

Short-term Effect</strong

The effects of gaming addiction can be pronounced and very negative. As mentioned above, addicts can suffer detrimental consequences on work or relationships, leading to isolation. Many gamers with profound addictions do not get enough sunlight or nutrition, leading to vitamin deficiencies; they may also never exercise, and eat plenty of junk food (easy to acquire and requiring no or little production time) and drink high-sugar soft drinks to excess. These can all have serious consequences for the health of the gamer: obesity and complaints relating to malnutrition are not uncommon. Sleep deprivation is a major factor, with potentially severe effects on the addict’s mental health (and even leading to death in some extreme cases). All the above can contribute to the development of serious depression, including major depressive disorder.

Withrawal Symptoms

Because gaming is not a physical addiction – no physical dependence is created in the addict’s system – withdrawal symptoms are overwhelmingly psychological in nature (though some physical symptoms may emerge psychosomatically). Withdrawal can begin at any point after the last time an addict plays a game – though if they are forced to stop (for example, because of a power outage or equipment failure) they are likely to manifest some symptoms immediately.

Symptoms include restlessness, irritability, aggression, mood swings, anxiety and depression, all of which can manifest at any time after the last period of gaming. Most prominently, the addict will feel intense cravings to resume playing and may become very volatile if kept away from their computer or game console. They may also find themselves suffering from insomnia, driven by feelings of extreme tension and/or anxiety (alongside previously interrupted sleep patterns). Long-term, depression may be a major factor and can even contribute to suicidal ideation, especially amongst gamers who find “real life” extremely challenging.

Recovery Treatment

At Primrose Lodge, we are able to offer a range of therapy models, including:

  • Individual Therapy
  • Group Therapy
  • Family Therapy
  • 12-Step Therapy
  • Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT)
  • Art Therapy
  • Meditation

Rehab Benefits

Residential rehabilitation – “rehab” – has helped countless people struggling with addictions of all types, and as the phenomenon of gaming addiction has become more widespread, and its impact more obvious, a growing number of problem gamers have felt the benefits of the rehab model. At Primrose Lodge, our staff have substantial experience in the treatment of gaming addictions and in how to get addicts free of their burdens and back into happy healthy lives.

Some of the benefits that Primrose Lodge offers include:

  • First-rate medical care, available 24/7
  • A pleasant, calm environment in which addicts can focus fully on their recovery away from the temptations of gaming.
  • A wide range of therapies provided on-site.
  • Tailored dietary and fitness plans.
  • Complete confidentiality.
  • Friendly, very experienced, non-judgemental staff.
  • Group therapy featuring fellow addicts who understand the challenges.
  • A year’s free aftercare.

Get Help Today

To many people, gaming can sound like a harmless addiction – especially compared with hard drugs or alcohol. However, nobody who has experienced the degree to which gaming can come to dominate and ruin lives would consider it that way – and, unfortunately, gaming addiction is increasingly rife, as game companies become ever more sophisticated in their abilities to capture a gamer’s attention and money. If you consider yourself to be a problem gamer and have previously tried to stop without permanent success, don’t give up hope: at Primrose Lodge, our addiction specialists understand your challenges and are at hand to get you back into a happy, successful life. Give us a call today and one of our specialists will be able to discuss your situation with you and help you take the first steps on the path to recovery.

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Call Now 0203 553 9263
Call Now 0203 553 9263

Call Now 0203 553 9263

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    Perry Hill
    Surrey, GU3 3RF
  • Tel. 0203 553 9263
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