Habits and addictions can be formed to behaviors just as readily as to addictive drugs, and the consequences can sometimes be just as debilitating. This should come as no surprise, as the basic mechanism by which our brains form an addiction are the same in the case of both drugs and behaviors, such as gambling. Modern video games are a phenomena that’s spreading and becoming more popular at a nearly unprecedented scale. A far cry from their simplistic origins, today’s games are hyper-stimulating, packed with intricate systems of rewards and can easily lead to habit formation in those who aren’t careful. If you think your gaming habit is getting out of control, it may be time to tackle the issue head-on…
Our brains are very susceptible to becoming attached to experiences we view as rewarding. The mind cannot distinguish between the virtual rewards and items in video games and the real world. The bells, whistles and the racking up of points can become addictive in the same manor a slot machine becomes addictive. The rewards are made even more addictive by being randomly spaced, strengthening the desire to keep playing. In addition to simply being an escape from reality, many games are specifically engineered to encourage the player to form a habit.
Video games can also become habitual due to the social aspect involved in many multiplayer games. The genre of Massively Multiplayer Online Role-Playing Games (MMORPGs) have introduced people to a large community of gamers to play and interact with. Many people become very attached to the social aspect of gaming, even forming strong friendships with online strangers, and become dependent on this social experience. This can present difficulties if a player begins to forgo offline socializing in favor of the online experience.
The only person who can determine if your gaming habits are becoming problematic is you, however it often becomes difficult for us to see when something in our own lives is causing us issues. Some symptoms of video game addiction include lowered interest in other aspects of life, being exhausted in the morning from playing too late, choosing to play games instead of socializing, difficulty concentrating, and thoughts of gaming when not playing. Some physical signs can be headaches, sore fingers or hands, poor physical health and decreased attention to personal hygiene.
If you think you may be addicted to games, the first step in your treatment for video game addiction is to attempt a period of abstinence to gauge how serious the problem has become. Set a clear goal like one week without games and stick to it. Some people may be able to simply return to responsible gaming without any trouble, although it may be more difficult for others. It may help to create a list of the problems video games have been causing in your life for motivation.
Set time limits for either individual gaming sessions or a maximum daily limit. Create a list of things that need to be done before playing games. If you’ve been having problems with playing late into the night, it’s important to set a bed time and be sure to get off the computer or console at least an hour before that time comes, as staring at a screen before bed can cause problems in sleeping patterns.
If you’re having difficulty getting your addiction to video games under control on your own, consider contacting a medical professional for help. Video game addiction is becoming a more common problem every year, and there are therapies available to assist you in overcoming it.by