Am I a video game addict?
Only you can decide. But if you come to me for therapy, here’s what I’m going to look for. See how many of the following apply to you.
If you’re addicted to something, you often spend a lot of time thinking about it in some way when you aren’t doing it. For example, you may be mentally re-living old gaming experiences or planning new ones. Also, do you modify other aspects of your life so you can play more (rescheduling events, playing on your phone while at other activities, etc.)?
People who are addicted often experience various kinds of withdrawal symptoms when they stop. Do you feel restless, irritable, moody, angry, anxious or sad when you can’t play or when you try to reduce your play? Many video game addicts report that their experience of life is “flat,” that unless they are gaming they aren’t motivated to do anything, and don’t find the rest of life interesting.
Here are some other symptoms that self-identified video game addicts have reported: http://cgaa.info/gaming-withdrawal-symptoms/
Addiction often involves needing more and more of the activity or substance to get the same results. Here’s a question: Do you feel the need to play for increasing amounts of time, play more exciting games, or use more powerful equipment to get the same amount of excitement you used to get?
Difficulty reducing or stopping
Sometimes addicts will experience a loss of control over the activity. They may want to (or feel they should) play less or stop, but they have trouble cutting back or quitting. If you’ve tried something like this, especially if you’ve tried multiple times, check this box.
Give up other activities
A lot of times, people who have developed an addiction have given up other recreational activities (hobbies, formal or informal social activities) in order to game. If you are gaming more now than you did in the past, take a moment to think about what things have been replaced.
Continue despite problems
Do you continue to play games even though you are aware of negative consequences, such as not getting enough sleep, being late to school/work, spending too much money, having arguments with others, or neglecting important duties? This is a big hallmark of addiction. Most people who find something interfering with their lives try to avoid it. This is also an aspect of addiction that people who aren’t addicted find most difficult to understand. “It’s creating all these problems for him, why doesn’t he just stop it?”
This is a tough one, but it’s telling. Have you ever lied about or tried to hide your gaming in any way? Ahem. Be honest.
Escape adverse mood
Most self-identified video game addicts will say that one of the important reasons to play was to escape from or forget about personal problems, or to relieve uncomfortable feelings (such as guilt, anxiety, helplessness or depression)?
Do you risk or lose significant relationships, or job, educational or career opportunities because of gaming? This one is obvious, but it’s surprising how many people will tell you “yes, but it’s not a problem.” Some people quit a job or drop classes to game more, and say they’re OK with it. Well, if you’re OK with it, I’m OK with it, but I’m going to check box anyway. 🙂
So what now?
These kinds of signs are typical of all addictions, by the way, not just video game addiction. How did you score? If you’ve only got one or two of these, there may be a problem, but perhaps it’s not too severe (yet). When you get into the realm of three or four, you’re showing definite signs of addiction. If we can check five boxes, then we’re looking at the real thing.
And if you don’t like my test, that’s OK. 🙂 Here’s one created by people who identify themselves as gaming addicts.
If after reading all this you think you might have a gaming addiction, you’re probably right. Most addicts need help to stop (and most need to stop, not just cut down). That may seem impossible right now. But there is help available. You can find support groups online, in churches and through community mental health agencies. You should probably also get a therapist. If you’re in Colorado Springs, please feel free to call me. If not, but you do want help, send me an email. Recovery is challenging, but it’s possible.