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VIDEO GAME - 9 Signs Your Child is Addicted to Gaming

Updated: Jun 22, 2019

We know that this is a really disputed and polemic topic for some people, but video gaming is now an internationally recognised behavioural addiction, according to the World Health Organization.  Although addiction is an ongoing serious concern in most spheres of societies, whether drug addiction, alcohol addiction or gambling addiction, among others, video gaming being classified as addictive seems more controversial than those listed above. 

However, we can say that it became official last month, when experts who attended the World Health Assembly in Geneva approved the classification of gaming disorder as a disease, a year after plans were announced to include the disorder in the revised International Classification of Diseases, known as ICD-11.  Just to remind you, at the beginning of this year, Fortnite was the most recent game to come under fire in the video games addiction controversy. Despite its worldwide success, several reports emerged online highlighting how the game had been a prime reason for increased gaming addiction in kids, and Prince Harry shared his concerns about the popular online video game (have a look at my post about Fortnite).


It is important to say that ever since video games entered the mainstream in the 1980s, at that time, some people already suggested that this "innocent" hobby could be bad for children, and I remember having lots of fun myself with my ATARI (with the game Bob is Going Home) WOW!!! I feel prehistoric now. In any case, recently, several studies have proven all theories regarding the actual harm of video gaming. 


The research conducted by  Dr Nicholas Kardaras referred to demonstrations that certain pathways in the forebrain, where dopamine is the neurotransmitter, become active when people are playing video games, and drugs such as heroin activate some of these same pathways. Kardaris claims the following: “We now know that those iPads, smartphones and Xboxes are a form of digital drug. Recent brain imaging research is showing that they affect the brain’s frontal cortex — which controls executive functioning, including impulse control — in exactly the same way that cocaine does.”  


"Gosh, my child plays video game!!! I feel really worried right now: what should I do??" 


First, relax and take a deep breath, because it is important to say that this does not mean that the vast majority of video gamers are addicted, or suffer from this dependence, even if they play every day, and that’s an important distinction given that the inclusion of “Gaming Disorder” in the new ICD could lead to parents panicking that their children are actual addicts. There is a chance that they are not addicted (yet). Also, it is important to mention that this disorder is not exclusive to youngsters, as there are numerous cases in which adults withdraw from their social life due to this issue.


So, how can you find out if your children or (even you) are running the risk of becoming video gaming addicted? 


Here are nine features point out by The American Psychiatric Association as warning signs to watch for when it comes to video game addiction. And again, it is essential to bear in mind that these can be helpful to better understand the severity of your children's situation (or your own situation), but it’s important to always seek the advice of a professional. I found this information on the Game Quitters WebPage: please have a look and do not panic!


1. Preoccupation with video games. The individual thinks about previous gaming activity or anticipates playing the next game; Gaming becomes the dominant activity in daily life.


2. Withdrawal symptoms when gaming is taken away. These symptoms are typically described as irritability, anxiety, boredom, cravings, or sadness.


3. Tolerance – the need to spend increasing amounts of time engaged in video games. This may be motivated by a need for the completion of increasingly intricate, time-consuming, or difficult goals to achieve satisfaction and/or reduce fears of missing out.


4. Unsuccessful attempts to control participation in video games.


5. Loss of interests in previous hobbies and entertainment as a result of, and with the exception of, video games.


6. Continued excessive use of games despite knowledge of psychosocial problems. The individual continues to play despite a negative impact.


7. Has deceived family members, therapists, or others regarding their gaming.


8. Use of video games to escape or relieve a negative mood (e.g., feelings of helplessness, guilt, anxiety).


9. Has jeopardized or lost a significant relationship, job, educational, or career opportunity because of participation in video games.


If your child or you meet five (or more) of the following warning signs in a 12-month period, you may have an addiction and should seek the help of a professional immediately - but please bear in mind that this is a very general evaluation, and to confirm any diagnosis, this process requires further evaluation from a mental health professional or a GP.  Another important consideration regarding this topic pointed out by Dr Klare Heston is that video games have been linked to childhood obesity and cognitive problems.


It is important that you help your child feel loved in this kind of situation. You don’t have to cut video games out of your child’s life completely, but setting boundaries and helping your child find other activities can limit the amount of time they play video games. I would recommend (apart for medical advice) looking for organisations that support individuals by providing a better understanding of addiction, and co-occurring disorders. I am sure they can help remove the barriers to treatment many people face.  Also, please consider how much time you spend looking at screens. Make sure you are setting a positive example by moderating your own use of technology. 


I hope you found this post useful and informative. Click here to see other posts.


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References: To see the sources of this article, please click in each link within the text.


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