Online gaming can be a fun way to spend some time, but when gaming becomes an addiction, it can have devastating consequences. Despite many people struggling with crippling addictions to online gaming for many years, the condition has only just been recognised as a mental health disorder by the World Health Organisation (WHO).

It can be hard for some people to view this seemingly harmless pastime as destructive, but when young children are forgoing the toilet in favour of playing their favourite game, it is time to take action. In a report in The Telegraph, a top paediatrician revealed that a boy of ten stopped going to the toilet because he did not want to miss playing his favourite game.

Dr Jo Begent said that the boy, who was playing up to eight hours at a time with his father, suffered bowel and bladder damage after he became severely constipated. He was suffering from a distended bowel and bladder, which was mistakenly thought to be cancer when he first arrived for treatment.

A Growing Problem

This young boy is not the only child to have developed a serious addiction to online gaming. A 9-year-old girl was sent to rehab for treatment after wetting herself while playing her favourite game. When her father tried to take her X-box controller away, she hit him in the face.

It would appear that it is becoming a growing problem, with some children falling asleep in school because of hours spent on their favourite games.

With so many cases, ‘gaming disorder’ has now been classified as an official mental health disorder by WHO. It is classed as a ‘pattern of gaming behaviour characterised by impaired control over gaming, increasing priority given to gaming over other activities to the extent that gaming takes precedence over other interests and daily activities, and continuation or escalation of gaming despite the occurrence of negative consequences’.

When Does Gaming Become a Problem

Online gaming is an activity enjoyed by countless individuals, but when gaming becomes an addiction, it can literally take over players’ lives. While most people can play online games in moderation, there are some who allow it to consume their very being.

When gaming becomes an addiction, it becomes the most important thing in a person’s life. It will overtake everything else and the individual will lose interest in other things, such as hobbies or activities, that were once enjoyed. Most will stop spending time with loved ones in favour of playing games.

Gaming addicts can become anxious or irritable when not able to play their favourite game, and their performance levels in school or work suffer greatly. When gaming starts to consume every waking moment, it has disastrous consequences.

The Negative Impact of a Gaming Addiction

As gaming addiction does not involve a mood-altering chemical substance, most people assume that there are no health consequences, but this is not true. The reality is that a gaming addiction can have a negative impact on many areas of a person’s life – including health.

For example, those spending increasing amounts of time playing online games can suffer weight gain or weight loss. If they are constantly eating while playing games and getting no exercise, they could start to put on weight, which can lead to a whole new set of physical health problems. Others will forego eating and consequently suffer rapid weight loss, which can also have a negative impact on health.

One of the common traits of a gaming addict is spending longer amounts of time playing games than originally intended. This can then interrupt sleep patterns, especially when the individual continues playing into the night.

Continuous game-playing can also cause pain in various parts of the body, particularly the hands and wrists, neck, and back. In extreme cases, musculoskeletal problems occur.

On top of this, and as you can probably imagine, excessive video gaming can result in vision problems. Eye strain leads to headaches, dizziness, and even vomiting.

But it is not just health that suffers when a person develops a gaming addiction. There are many social consequences too. Some individuals become so wrapped up in gaming that they start to feel more comfortable living in the virtual world. They begin to socialise with other online gamers and find it increasingly difficult to interact with people in the real world.

Gaming addicts tend to suffer mood swings, and many begin lying to family members and friends about the time they are spending playing games. This can cause problems in relationships.

Do You Have a Gaming Addiction?

If you have a gaming addiction, you are unlikely to want to admit to it for fear that you will have to quit playing. It is the same for most addicts – the idea of having to give up the thing that gives them pleasure is terrifying. Addicts are usually of the opinion that the substance or activity they are dependent on is the only good thing in their life. This is because they are unable to see the harm that is being caused by their actions.

If your family members and friends have suggested that you may have a problem with video gaming, it is a good idea to listen to what they have to say. They are unlikely to have plucked these thoughts from the ether without justification. They will be in a better position to see the way that your behaviour has changed and the effect that gaming is having on not only your life but also the lives of those around you.

It is important that you look closely at your gaming habits to see if you do indeed have an addiction. Ask yourself the following questions?

  • Do you spend more time gaming than you had planned?
  • Do you become irritable when you are not able to play online games?
  • Do you lie to family members and friends about the amount of time you spend gaming?
  • Do you suffer from headaches, or pain in your hands, wrists, neck, or back when playing games?
  • Do you become angry or aggressive when playing games?
  • Have you begun neglecting your responsibilities at home, work or school?
  • Do you spend more time playing games than you do with your loved ones?
  • Have you lost interest in doing things that you used to take pleasure in, such as sports or hobbies?
  • Have you skipped meals or stayed up later at night to continue playing games?
  • Have you promised yourself that you would quit or cut down on the amount of time you spend playing games but found yourself being drawn back to it?

If you have answered yes to one or two of the above questions, then you may be in danger of allowing your use of video games to spiral out of control. If you have answered yes to more than that, you might already have an addiction and need professional help to get better.

Why Treatment is Important

If you have a gaming addiction, you may be hoping it will just pass itself, but this is unlikely to happen. There are self-help techniques and groups that you can join to bring your addictive behaviour under control. You will need to be motivated to succeed though and willing to make changes to your lifestyle.

If your addiction is severe, a programme of inpatient treatment might be necessary. As it is impossible to completely avoid technology and the internet in today’s day and age, you could need a digital detox to break the cycle of addiction. Being in an environment where you have no access to online gaming or any other technology can help you to get your addictive behaviour under control.

You will learn the reasons you became addicted in the first place and the triggers to your behaviour. You will also learn how to develop new positive habits that you can use when faced with triggers.

For more information on how to overcome gaming addiction, or to speak to someone for advice on when gaming becomes an addiction, please contact us here at Middlegate today.

When Gaming Becomes an Addiction
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