Is your husband, partner or child forever glued to the screen, clicking away on the mouse or consoles, and getting visibly agitated and stressed? Do they battle to focus on anything else and cannot wait to get back to the screen? Do they struggle to get up after a heavy night of gaming?
If you have answered yes to any of these questions, you, or the person in your life could be addicted to gaming. Even though it is not yet officially recognised as a mental disorder, experts in psychology are starting to scrutinise the excessive or compulsive use of games. And like any other addiction or disorder, if it interferes with your everyday life, it could become a serious problem.
Why is gaming so addictive?
But why can’t gamers let go of this seemingly innocent and harmless hobby? Because gaming is made to be addictive. The designers of online games (include neuroscientists on the teams) go to great lengths and incur enormous costs to make sure that you come back for more time and again. Your physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual health is of little concern to them; they are only interested in making money.
Two types of gaming addiction
In general, there are two types gaming addiction. Single player games get you addicted when you feel you must complete a mission or break a pre-set record.
Multiplayer games are particularly addictive as they never end. These Massively Multiplayer Online Role Playing Games (MMORGS/MMOs) such as Second Life, offer gamers the chance to create online characters with specific abilities and appearances. These virtual personalities then form relationships with other online players often to escape reality. Gamers feel liked and accepted in these fictional or virtual communities.
Interesting facts about addiction to gaming
Research by an American clinical psychologist Dr. Brent Conrad revealed the following interesting facts about video and online game addiction:
- A total of 41% of gamers admitted that they played games to escape from real life.
- Addiction to games is associated with the need to seek new sensations and experiences.
- If you tend to be anxious, aggressive, or neurotic you are at a higher risk of becoming a gaming addict.
- Men are more likely to become addicts. Males like aggressive or violent games, and females prefer puzzle games.
- Learners who play video games regularly have lower grades than those who do not play online games often.
- The same regions of the brain that are activated when you crave alcohol or drugs are also activated when gaming addicts see images of computer games.
Signs of gaming addiction
There are several signs and symptoms of which to be aware when you suspect that you or a loved one is addicted to gaming.
On an emotional level, gaming addiction manifests as:
- Restlessness and/or irritability when you cannot play your game.
- Not being present. You are either thinking about your last online session or the next one.
- Isolation from others to spend more time gaming.
On a physical level, gaming addiction manifests as:
- Fatigue and sleep disorders.
- Headaches and migraines.
- Carpal tunnel syndrome.
- Poor personal hygiene.