Although internet gaming addiction is not recognised as a formal diagnosis yet, it is an area that has raised a great deal of interest for mental health professionals. For families who have a child or teenager who appears addicted to online gaming, it can often be difficult to find the right support and treatment.
A gaming addiction, much like a gambling addiction, is a behavioural condition in which a person’s everyday life is significantly affected by a compulsive use of internet-based games or games consoles.
People with gaming addictions often have underlying problems and it is the case that mental health issues often cause gaming addictions rather than the other way around.
Most parents worry about their child or teenagers’ use of ‘screen’ time – we live in a society where many of our children may have access to the internet both at school, at home and on the move – so it’s not always possible to know exactly what your child is doing online or how much time they are spending playing online games.
Where once we worried about the types of games our children played (and much research has been carried out on the link between playing violent games and the impact it can have on your child’s behaviour1) we might now be more worried about the amount of time they spend gaming.
There are several risks associated with a gaming addiction – social, educational, emotional, behavioural and relational. In many ways, a gaming addiction does not differ from an addiction to a substance or gambling and therefore needs to be treated early so that the most effective outcome is found.
Gaming addiction can also be a sign that your child has another mental health condition, like depression, Autism or anxiety. The gaming can be used, like any other addiction, to help the individual manage difficult feelings or to ‘escape’.
Left untreated, the underlying cause of the gaming addiction can also increase in severity, making it harder to find an effective treatment option.
Children and teenagers are spending more and more time on the internet or in front of screens than ever before. As parents, it’s impossible to know how much is too much, although a good rule of thumb is to think about the impact it is having on other aspects of your child’s life. Internet usage should only be a small percentage of what they do every day.
Here are some of the common signs that your child may have a gaming addiction:
If you recognise 4 or more of the above symptoms in your child or teenager it may be worth seeking some help.
Friendly, professional, engaging to parents and children. The evidence of the doctor’s ability in our son’s subsequent improvement and his ownership of his own treatment.
Gaming addiction is just that, an addiction, and should be treated as such. Addictions can seriously harm the way that a person lives their lives and the lives of others around them.