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5 Signs of Video Game Addiction: Know the Warning Signs and Get Help

Video and computer gaming is a widely popular recreational hobby that appeals to people of all ages and backgrounds. From warfare to racing, there is a virtual reality for every interest.

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For some, video games and the gaming world can become more than mere entertainment, and start monopolizing daily life. There is a fine line between recreation and obsession. When someone becomes dependent on gaming to the point where they cannot tolerate the idea of going a day without it, they have likely crossed the boundary line of video game addiction.

Behavioral addictions such as gaming addiction are a result of when habits become obligations. It is the inability to control compulsions to repeat certain behaviors that reward the brain. Knowing indicative symptoms of addictive behavior is essential to preventing an addiction from hijacking control of your life, and getting help for it once you are aware of its development. The following five signs of video game addiction are important to address if you notice them.

  • Neglecting Responsibilities

When someone becomes detached and more interested in video games than the world around them, their friends, family, and coworkers are often the first to suspect a behavioral addiction. Neglecting obligations at work and home is a red flag that you are preoccupied and have subconsciously made all your other priorities in life secondary to gaming.

If you notice people in your life expressing concern about your recent absences or lack of concentration, this could be a sign that your gaming habit is taking off with you.

  • Neglecting Self-Care and Hygiene

Taking care of your health and getting all your basic human needs met is essential. Self-care routines such as bathing, eating, and dressing are usually second nature to functioning adults. Bit if you have been too busy with gaming to take a shower, do laundry, go grocery shopping, eat meals, and maintain personal hygiene, this is definitely a red flag that warrants attention.

  • Separation Anxiety or Depression

When someone is becoming pathologically dependent on a substance or behavior, they go through what is referred to as dopamine withdrawals. Studies indicate that video games spike dopamine levels due to hyperarousal. Dopamine is the reward chemical that the brain becomes increasingly tolerant and dependent on.

When dopamine is depleted, you experience cravings for the substance or behavior that will increase it again. This motivates you to repeat the behavior or use the substance over and over.

Withdrawal symptoms of being without access to video games are characteristic of anxiety and depression disorders. You may feel uneasy, irritable, or sad when you are not actively gaming.

  • Becoming Secretive or Dishonest

Secretive and covert behavior is a very common symptom of addiction, and video game addictions are no exception to this. Hiding or lying about video games for fear of attracting attention to an obsession or shame of playing them so often is a sign that it could be on the borderline of addiction.

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  • Gaming to Cope or Escape

Like with any other addiction, video games can serve as an outlet or mental escape from stress or negative emotions. Immersion in virtual reality can facilitate disconnection from reality. Using video games as a coping mechanism to deal with unwanted feelings is a temporary and unsustainable strategy that can backfire and cause mental health to decline.

Activities like gaming as a form of stress relief are perfectly fine in moderation. However, if you use video games as a way to turn off your mind or distract yourself from unresolved emotional problems on a regular basis, it definitely has the potential to turn into pathological behavior.

A much healthier alternative is to identify what motivates your desire to play video games, and what emotional needs are being temporarily met or numbed when you play. Obtaining therapeutic services from a mental health professional is the best approach to addressing any untreated mental health disorders, and learning healthy coping strategies.