The Impact of Gaming Addiction on Your Health and Relationships

“Individuals with Gaming Disorder may make numerous unsuccessful efforts to control or significantly reduce gaming behaviour, whether self-initiated or imposed by others.”

World Health Organization (WHO)

Is gaming addiction real?

Some individuals may question if there’s such a thing as gaming addiction. The mainstream conversation and bias around what may or may not constitute an addiction is nothing new.When the subject of addiction comes up, the image of a chronic alcoholic, drug addict, chain smoker, or perhaps a compulsive gambler will likely spring to mind. There’s now an acceptance in the collective consciousness in the UK and beyond, that some addictions are genuine and very serious. Some even believe that “anyone can become addicted to anything”, which may well come from a place of compassion and good will, or an attempt to remove the historic stigma around addiction, however the fact remains that addiction is not problematic for most people.

At Addcounsel, our team of world-class experts have recognised and seen the impact of untreated gaming addiction on those seeking help. Video game addiction is characterised by a consistent and repetitive use of the internet to compulsively game, either alone or with fellow gamers. This condition affects children, teenagers, and adults. Currently, more data is being gathered and accessed by health professionals who argue that gaming disorder is a behavioural addiction, similar to that of gambling.

In 2018, the World Health Organization added gaming disorder to its medical reference book, International Classification of Disease. WHO has been very clear as to why it included gaming: “A decision on inclusion of gaming disorder in ICD-11 is based on reviews of available evidence and reflects a consensus of experts from different disciplines and geographical regions that were involved in the process of technical consultations undertaken by WHO in the process of ICD-11 development. The inclusion of gaming disorder in ICD-11 follows the development of treatment programmes for people with health conditions identical to those characteristic of gaming disorder in many parts of the world, and will result in the increased attention of health professionals to the risks of development of this disorder and, accordingly, to relevant prevention and treatment measures.”

American Psychiatric Society writes on gaming addiction: “Addiction to gaming is described in the American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5-TR), which is used by mental health professionals to diagnose mental disorders. In the DSM-5-TR, the condition is referred to as Internet Gaming Disorder (IGD)(1). IGD is included in the section recommending conditions for further research, along with caffeine use disorder and other conditions.” The authors continue: “The DSM-5-TR includes substance-related addictive disorders, such as alcohol, tobacco, stimulants, marijuana and opioids. Gambling disorder is the only behavioral addiction (as opposed to chemical substance use disorders) identified in DSM-5-TR.”

What are the symptoms of gaming addiction/disorder?

The signs and symptoms of gaming addiction can be disconcerting and even distressing, say when the individual is unable to get online or is experiencing a withdrawal. Here are some of the common symptoms:

  • A compulsive need to increase time spent playing video games to get the same satisfaction once enjoyed before a tolerance had been established
  • Obsessively thinking about gaming when not online
  • A noticeable decline in personal hygiene because of excessive and compulsive gaming
  • Dropping once enjoyable hobbies and recreational pursuits in favour of continuous gaming
  • A rapid deterioration in performance at school or in the workplace due to excessive gaming
  • Neglecting everyday responsibilities, domestic or otherwise
  • Experiencing withdrawal symptoms when prevented from gaming. This may cause the individual to experience severe anxiety, irritability, anger, mood swings and sadness (children have been known to become very distressed if their gaming activity is curtailed)
  • Finding it impossible to reduce gaming
  • Not able to quit gaming
  • Hiding information about gaming usage from family, friends and professionals because of shame, embarrassment and the stigma associated with their compulsive/addictive behaviour
  • Using gaming as an avoidance strategy to escape from uncomfortable feelings. Gaming becomes a way to mask and avoid stressful situations and emotions, rather than purely gaming for enjoyment (depression is very common among gaming addicts)
  • Headaches and migraines
  • Poor emotional regulation due to a daily practice of numbing out for hours on end, being in a habitual state of a dopamine rush or crash and experiencing cravings/withdrawal symptoms when not gaming

Gaming addiction impacts on your health and wellbeing

Suicide ideation and depression are commonly associated with this condition. A lack of motivation to get things done becomes habitual, thereby affecting the individual’s physical wellbeing. Exercise and healthy eating are often overlooked or neglected which can then lead to feelings of uselessness and self-loathing. Teenagers going through this experience will suffer significantly, at a time when they are already facing the turbulent challenges of puberty and adolescence. Parents report witnessing a marked drop in motivation in their children.

Forbes writes on this: “A valid concern is that addicted gamers show little motivation to perform real-life tasks and activities. But, making this statement is not entirely correct. While video games constantly reward players’ achievements, such as leveling up or earning rewards, gamers could use them to evade real-life responsibilities. It is possible that the gamer has many complications in achieving their personal goals or those imposed by their relatives. Or faces many obstacles. This makes video games a very satisfying activity that helps leave aside the frustration of the real world.”

How does gaming addiction affect relationships?

Parent-child relationship

Untreated gaming addiction impacts every area of relationship. The urge to stay online and game may become so compelling that it’ll override other crucial needs such as in person engagement with family and friends. If this is prolonged, the development of vital social and emotional skills which result from regular social interaction may be impeded. It’s perfectly natural for teenage/parental relations to be strained at times, but gaming addiction can further complicate this already highly sensitive and fragile dynamic. A parent will feel overwhelmed when their child shows signs of a compulsive gaming addiction, and the child will likely feel deeply distressed when a parent attempts to intervene in their gaming use; at this stage, the parent-child relationship may need professional help and support.

Marital relationship

An adult with familial responsibilities may compromise precious time spent with their offspring or neglect to put the work in to keep a marriage/long-term relationship flourishing. With respect to the impact on a marriage, a gaming addict will divert attention from the relationship which will likely lead to misunderstanding and a breakdown in communication and intimacy. It’s not that the gaming addict isn’t aware of the impact of their addiction; they’ll likely feel guilt and shame. The problem is that even if a gaming addict genuinely yearns to change things for the better, and makes a plan to do so, unless they have a recovery support system in place, a relapse is almost inevitable.

In an article published by Institute for Family Studies, What Families Should Know About Gaming Addiction, it writes: “Research on video game addiction and marriage is very rare. However, one recent study found that spouses of video game addicts reported changes in three areas of their life due to their partners’ gaming habits. First, there were changes in their partner, such as increased isolation, defensiveness, and personal health consequences (such as poor health from neglecting exercise). Second, spouses reported changes in themselves, including increasing anger and resentment toward their spouse. They also experienced growing stress, frustration, and general sadness.” The researcher, Sarah M. Coyne, concludes: “Finally, spouses reported significant changes in the relationship and family roles. They reported that gaming decreased help around the house, talking with their children, sexual intimacy, and financial loss due to the money spent on video games and problems at work.”

Professional relationships

The impact on professional competence may become significant with the individual losing track of time, missing/skipping important meetings, or failing to meet deadlines to accommodate gaming.  Needless to say, this can often result in the loss of a position and/or destruction of a professional reputation. Compulsive gaming in the workplace could lead to hyper competitiveness and bullying, especially when contests are established.

Contact us today

At Addcounsel, we know that addiction is a chronic compulsive brain disorder which has the capacity to completely override all reason and logical thinking and robs families of their loved ones. Left untreated, gaming addiction will become extremely detrimental to family and professional life.

When you check in to one of our private and discreet rehabilitation clinics, you’ll be embarking upon a personalised gaming addiction treatment programme tailored to your individual needs. We offer luxury private accommodation for the duration of your stay, with 24/7 access to a team of world-class experts headed by one of the UK’s leading psychiatrists and a compassionate and understanding approach to finding the solution which works for you.

Your luxury treatment takes place in an intimate, one-to-one setting – no groups, no other patients. Your comfort, safety and privacy are our priority.

Contact us today to start your recovery journey from the comfort and anonymity of our discreet, luxury rehabilitation accommodations in Mayfair, Chelsea, Knightsbridge or Notting Hill, London.



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