While playing your favorite games can seem like a harmless way to spend your free time, this behavior can sometimes spiral into a serious video game addiction. With the recent popularity of online games such as EverQuest and World of Warcraft, an increasing number of people are spending hours in front of their televisions and computer screens.
Many experts believe online games are more addictive than traditional video games. Since online games come with chat rooms and other interactive features, players become involved in a virtual community. While traditional video games have an inherently self-limiting design, online video games can be played endlessly since the storyline depends on the other players involved in the game. People suffering from video game addiction have reported that they've lost jobs, ended romantic relationships and neglected friendships because of their desire to play their favorite games.
Causes for Video Game Addiction
Since the problem is a relatively new phenomenon, the exact cause of game addiction is unknown. However, this addiction appears to be most common among younger male players. It may also have a cultural component. In South Korea, video games were recently blamed for the deaths of four young men. One man died after playing Starcraft for 50 hours with few breaks. A four-month old baby also died after her parents left her unattended to play World of Warcraft.
Signs of Addiction
Video game addiction is not a physical addiction like alcoholism. However, it shares many similarities with compulsive gambling. Many video game addicts spend ten or more hours playing games each day. They often structure their lives around their favorite games and become defensive when confronted about their behavior.
If you think you may be a video game addict, ask yourself the following questions:
- Do you neglect relationships with your friends and family to spend more time playing video games?
- Do you struggle to keep up with your schoolwork and/or professional responsibilities?
- Have you ever taken a "sick day" to play your favorite game?
- Do you lie to others about your video game use? Have you ever been criticized by someone close to you for spending too much time playing video games?
- When you're not playing video games, do you feel angry or depressed? Do you spend your time wishing you could be playing your favorite game?
- Do you get so engrossed in video games that you neglect to eat, sleep or shower?
- Do you suffer from backaches, dry eyes or headaches after playing video games? Have you been diagnosed with carpal tunnel syndrome?
Treatment Options for Video Game Addicts
People who are addicted to video games know that their gaming is causing strain on relationships, yet they feel powerless to change their behavior. Therapy is the most common course of treatment for video game addicts. However, it's important to find a professional who has experience in this particular area. Since this particular addiction has only been in the spotlight for a short time, many mental health professionals are unaware of the extent of the problem.