4 Signs of Gaming Addiction and How To Pull back

Gaming is a great way to blow off some steam and destress after a busy day at work or school. Recent studies show that video games can enhance creativity and increase your optimism. The study also found that, in general, video games can improve gamers’ resiliency and help them learn to navigate adversity IRL. 

However, gaming is notoriously addictive. If you aren’t careful, your passion for building in Fortnite or quick scoping in COD can quickly turn into a gaming disorder. This is a deeply harmful type of addiction that will undermine your overall quality of life. 

Fortunately, gaming addiction is a behavioral addiction, rather than a chemical one. This means you can alter your behavior to curb your addiction and will not suffer from remission-like symptoms when trying to pull back from overplaying. 

4 Signs of Addiction 

Gaming addiction can be difficult to break if you’re passionate about playing with friends or exploring huge open-world games. However, any form of addiction is, ultimately, bad for your health and well-being on multiple fronts. Currently, the National Institute of Health (NIH) defines gaming addiction as: 

  1. Preoccupation: does gaming almost always take precedence over other important things in your life? Do you often think about gaming when you should be at work or school?
  2. Hiding/Lying: Do you lie about the amount of time you spend gaming or attempt to hide your true playing time from family and friends? 
  3. Withdrawal: Do you regularly turn down social events to play games? Do you feel that gaming puts a barrier between yourself and your loved ones? 
  4. Consequences: Does your addiction have damaging consequences? Have you lost a job due to gaming? Do you disregard your hygiene in order to play? Is your physical health ailing? 

These are just a few of the parameters that the NIH uses to define gaming addiction. Their definition foregrounds the harmful impact of gaming without control and highlights the reality that gaming addiction can look different for different people. If you’re concerned that your LOL schedule is taking precedence over your real life and relationships, you may need to pull back and learn to recognize the physical signs of addiction. 

Physical Consequences 

Almost all addictions take a clear physical toll on your body. Gaming addiction, however, can be easy to hide — particularly if you’re reasonably active and keep yourself healthy. That said, there are a few key physical indicators that your interest in gaming is becoming unhealthy. 

If gaming is interfering with your sleep schedule, you will start to notice dark rings around your eyes. These dark rings are a sign that your body is in “stress mode”. Similarly, dark rings are an indicator of dehydration — which is more likely to occur if you’re gaming for prolonged periods without a break. 

Even if you don’t have dark circles, you may notice other physical signs like: 

  • Carpal tunnel
  • Backaches
  • Irregular eating
  • Poor personal hygiene 

These are indicators that you may have a disorder and could be developing an addiction. Signs like carpal tunnel expose the physical toll that gaming may take, while poor personal hygiene is almost certain to undermine your social life. 

Social Struggles 

Gaming for more than 20 hours a week may be a sign that you need to put down the controller and touch some grass. While there’s nothing wrong with finding fulfillment in gaming, you need to keep some semblance of balance between gaming and your real life. Admittedly, this can be a tough balance to strike when you’re excited about finally playing the top games of 2023 like Baldur’s Gate 3.

You may also find that you experience common gaming addiction issues like: 

  • Poor performance at work due to thinking about gaming
  • Using games to put off IRL challenges that you need to face
  • Irritability/stress when you are unable to play your games. 

Some games may cause financial strain, too. For example, if you use platforms like PSN, World of Warcraft, or Game Pass, you may find that subscription-based services are money pits and you’re forking out hundreds of dollars per year that you cannot actually afford. This will cause your budget to spiral out of control and may turn fun Battlepass rewards into financially stressful incentives to achieve. 

These issues can interfere with your social life and may cause long-term problems like job loss and weakened support systems. Using games to avoid real issues in your life can create a cyclical addiction cycle, too, which can be tough to break. 

Improving Your Quality of Life

Gaming addiction can be hard to overcome if you’re invested in securing democracy in Helldivers or exploring a virtual version of the Wild West in Red Dead Redemption 2. However, with the right approach and a little mental health support, you can find ways to pull back and reassert control over your life. Start with simple steps like: 

  • Set an hour timer when playing and step away from the screen for at least 15 minutes when your alarm sounds. 
  • Consider playing more relaxing titles like Stardew Valley that don’t require as much time investment.
  • Schedule IRL commitments that you enjoy, like meeting up for coffee or hitting the gym with a friend. 

These steps can alleviate your addiction and help you find moderation when gaming. This can be transformative if you associate your identity with a challenging multiplayer game. Even simple steps, like playing more solo-style games, can help you break the addictive cycle. 

Gaming addiction can have a detrimental impact on your physical, mental, social, and financial health. However, you don’t need to let games rule you. Start by taking simple steps to bring balance to your life by setting timers and scheduling IRL meet-ups with friends. If these strategies don’t seem to make an impact, consider speaking to a therapist or primary care provider who can refer you to professional addiction support services.

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