5 Warning Signs of Video Game Addiction
Coming to grips...
It’s not easy to admit to a video game addiction. Mostly because video games are fun! How can anything fun be an addiction, right? But video game addiction is real, and many people who have this addiction may not even realize that they have a problem!
I am a recovered video games addict. My several-month “problem” cost me my free time, my sleep, my grades, and my social life. Giving this addiction up wasn’t easy. Fortunately, there are a number of “warning signs” of addiction that I’ve come to realize since retaking my life:
1. You have trouble keeping track of time—especially while gaming.
Did you know that the conscious state we experience when playing video games is actually a form of hypnosis? In our “relaxed” states, it’s hard for us to concentrate on anything happening around us. You might find yourself blowing off your family and friends, becoming forgetful, and completely unaware of the time!
Back in my “hardcore gaming” days, I sometimes wasted so many hours playing mind-numbing video games. Sometimes I would literally sit in a chair for five, six, and on more than one occasion, ten hours…just gaming. Sometimes the only thing keeping me in touch with reality was a friend telling me it was time for dinner…or that the sun had set two hours earlier.
2. You often find yourself “adding extra hours to the day”.
What is your sleep schedule? Do you even have a sleep schedule? These might seem like no-brainers, but oftentimes when we have an addiction to something we feel no shame as we rearrange everything else in our day to accommodate our vices. If you find yourself routinely staying up later than normal, waking up earlier than normal, or not sleeping at all to play video games, please take an honest look at your “hobby”.
I often found myself sleep-deprived, very crabby, and unable to focus in school. The end result? I sometimes crashed in the middle of the day—totally messing up my sleep schedule. At one point, I was almost completely nocturnal. I missed important events and my grades took a hit. Most times, I couldn’t have even told you what day it was…
If you’re often disoriented because video games have altered your sleep schedule, you have a problem. Video games are dictating your waking and sleeping hours—not you. If this isn’t controlled, it will begin to affect your mood and your health—not to mention your grades, your job performance, and your social life!
Decide on a time to go to bed and a time to wake up. Ask a family member or friend to hide your controllers or cords between these times. Otherwise, tape a “friendly reminder” to the screen of your TV or PC.
3. You experience withdrawal.
Want to know the quickest way to determine if someone has an addiction to something? Take it away from them. If this thing isn’t a problem for them, they should be able to get on fine without it. But if it is, they will likely experience some form of withdrawal.
Do you find yourself becoming cranky, irritable, sullen, or bored when you can’t play video games? Don’t ignore these feelings—they’re telling you that you’re too attached them. Take a sabbatical from your gaming and explore other interests.
Before I got really into gaming, I was a fun guy! I was an avid reader and loved drawing, painting, going to the gym, and dancing with my Zumba group. I’d get together with friends and hang out, go to movies, or play [non-video] games. This pretty much all fell apart when I let my gaming control me.
When I couldn’t get my “drug”, I went through some pretty nasty withdrawal. Suddenly, it was like the world closed up and nothing was interesting. I felt almost no motivation to do anything. I started skipping church, avoiding people, and went about six months without touching a book. I didn’t exercise and stopped caring about what I ate. In the span of about two months, I gained about 20 pounds and found it hard to even climb the five flights of stairs to my dorm room without being totally winded!
For me, this realization was my wake-up call; videogames were literally destroying me!
Is your gaming causing you to...
...become aggressive or violent?
...become overly competetive?
...stress or be anxious?
4. You aren’t gaming “just for fun” anymore.
It’s easy to let video games morph into something other than a pastime. Sometimes they can allow us to become extremely competitive, aggressive, and even violent. Especially in a day and age when video games can have very realistic elements, it’s not hard to find yourself emotionally connected to a game.
This is a very hard problem to detect, and I was only able to see this in myself after I gave up my addiction.
Do you see your moods, feelings, and actions change as a result of video games? Be honest: are you placing some of your self-worth in video games? Ask your friends and family if you act like a different person when you’re playing videogames (or when you’re not able to play video games).
For me, gaming started as something I just did for fun. Many times I was playing with roommates and other friends, and we all enjoyed the relaxed atmosphere. Over time I started getting very absorbed into gaming, becoming very competitive and impatient. I didn’t just want to do well, I wanted to do well so I could feel good.
This started taking the “fun” out of my gaming and I started playing out of something more like a warped sense of “duty”.
5. You use video games as a coping mechanism.
Studies have shown that video games can cause the brain to start dumping large amounts of dopamine—a chemical that makes us feel good. This is why playing video games (in moderation) can be a great way to de-stress.
Sometimes, though, we can abuse this dopamine release. The “good feeling” we can get from playing video games is a high that’s every bit as addictive as those that other people can get from stress-eating, being a shop-a-haulic, or…um…participating certain adult activities.
The problem isn’t that video games make us feel good. Playing a game to relax or blow off steam isn’t unhealthy. Where we go wrong is when we start using our “video game high” to as a coping mechanism or to escape reality. When we do this, we’re not behaving any differently than a man who turns to alcohol so he can forget life’s problems. In fact, video game addiction is not unlike alcoholism or an addiction to drugs...and the consequences can be every bit as severe.
I admit that sometimes, after having a bad day, doing poorly on a test, or having a conflict with a friend, I would just spend hours in a chair playing my favorite online games instead of taking action and working any of these out. In the end, doing this caused me more stress.
Whether we’re angry, frustrated, lonely, sad, grieving, or struggling with apathy, it’s important that we work through our personal issues—not just try to forget them by distracting ourselves with video games. We owe it to ourselves to get to a point of resolution.
Take charge of your life!
Please don’t get me wrong! Video games are fun to play—alone or with friends. They’re a great way to relax or just blow off some steam. But let this be an enjoyable, relaxing hobby that isn’t controlling you! Don’t sacrifice spending time with friends and family, your social life, and other activities you enjoy by feeding an addiction that will run you ragged…because it will.
If you’re struggling with video game addiction and need some support (or just want to chat!), feel free to message me! You can comment here for friend me on my Facebook page.
Wishing you all the best!
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