Quick Help Guides Gaming Addiction

What is a Gaming Addiction?

Video game addiction is characterized by decreased control over gaming habits, resulting in negative impacts on daily functioning, including personal, social, educational and occupational responsibilities.

Humans are wired for and respond to instant gratification, fast pace, unpredictability, and varied reinforcement.  All are satisfied in video games.  

Warning signs of problematic gaming:

  1. Unable to stop the activity, and gaming for longer than you intend to
  2. Neglecting family, friends, and social commitments 
  3. Lying to professors, friends, family members about your activities and the amount of time spent gaming
  4. Missed classes or showing up late to events because of gaming
  5. Failure to complete homework assignments
  6. Developing carpal tunnel syndrome, dry eye, or back/shoulder problems
  7. Fluctuations in weight (weight loss or weight gain)
  8. Failure to attend to personal hygiene
  9. Experiencing sleep disturbances or significant changes in sleep patterns to accommodating gaming
  10. Feeling depressed, irritable, or angry if someone interrupts gaming routines

Taking Care of Yourself

  1. Acknowledge a problem exists.  It’s hard to change a behavior without awareness or intention
  2. Take a technology holiday - this is an addiction, and it will take time to train your brain and nervous system to recognize you are able to tolerate periods of time without participating in online gaming.  Start small - this holiday can be as short of :30 min and work your way up!
  3. Exercise - research shows that physical exercise can improve psychological conditions, including addiction 
  4. Get help - sign up for counseling - this can be a huge help in getting control of a difficult behavior
  5. Develop new relationships and connections - While gaming is stimulating, it often lacks personal/emotional connections that real-time relationships provide.  We are built for community, and while a virtual community isn't inherently bad, if it's the only community one has, symptoms of loneliness, isolation, depression, and anxiety may follow. 
  6. Shorten your sessions - Gaming distorts the passage of time, so take steps to ground yourself in the here and now, and take control back regarding how much time you WANT to spend gaming.  Increase your conscious awareness of the time passing.  Place a clock next to the computer.  Set an alarm across the room that forces you to get up and/or makes it inconvenient to resume gaming.
  7. Become aware of moods, contexts, and triggers that result in unintended lengthy gaming/internet use.  Boredom and loneliness is a common cause for spending excessive amounts of time gaming.  Move your computer to a public place, or one that discourages you from retreating to familiar patterns of isolated use.  
  8. Use video games as a reward - gaming is only permitted/engaged in once obligations are met

How to Help a Friend

  • Share you concerns with your friend. Use statements like, “I care about you. I see that you spend more time gaming than before, and you seem less present. I want to help.” Your friend may resist you at first, deny the issue, but you have shown you care. This may be more of a process than a one-time conversation.
  • Help them set a goal of reducing their use, such as turning off gaming after 10pm.
  • Develop other activities to do together. Invite them out.
  • Offer to help them fill out a request for counseling at CAPS.
  • Remember that confrontation isn’t the solution; empathy is.
  • Help them find other interests. Have you always wanted to do rock climbing, or surfing, or frisbee golf? Or maybe exercising at the gym? Do something else that puts you far away from your console or PC.

What if these suggestions don’t work?

The Student Life Office and Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS) can help you get in touch with specialized help on or off campus. Individual counseling is available on campus in addition to support offered by staff in Campus Pastor’s office, Student Life and Residence Life. 

If you need immediate assistance, please call 911, the On Call RD at (805) 565-6273 or Westmont Public Safety at (805) 565-6222.

On- and Off-Campus Support

Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS) - westmont.edu/caps - (805) 565-6003

Campus Pastor’s Office: Clark B Cottage - (805) 565-6170 

Your RA / RDs or Spiritual Formation Coordinator

Related Scriptures

Ephesians 5:15 - 17

1 Corinthians 6:12

2 Timothy 2:22

Additional Information

Gaming Statistics

  • In the young adult population (ages 18-29) men are more likely to play video games than women (77% vs 57% respective)
  • Approximately 8.5% of individuals between the ages of 8 and 18 would be considered ‘addicted’ to gaming - meaning that gaming has started to impact functioning in significant areas of their life (i.e. health, school, work, relationships) and cause harm.
  • 8 percent of young adults (ages 18-24) are unsuccessful when trying to control their gaming behaviors
  • Over 5% of young adults experience withdrawal symptoms when they are not gaming
  • Over 3% of young adults have either lost relationships, jobs, or educational opportunities due to gaming addiction
  • Over 2 million college students are currently addicted to gaming in the US
  • The average college student addicted to gaming spends 5-8 hours per day gaming - hours that are equivalent to a full time job

What contributes to this trend?

Young adults typically start gaming activities while still living at home with their parents.  These activities are often harmless, and used simply as a form of entertainment.  Gaming at this stage is occurring under parental supervision, where access to games and amount of time allowed to spend gaming is monitored  Once students go off to college, and parents are no longer monitoring these behaviors, this activity can start to escalate, and be used as a stress reliever and coping mechanism.  

Is Gaming a Hobby or an Addiction?

How a hobby becomes an addiction:

Humans are wired for and respond to instant gratification, fast pace, unpredictability, and varied reinforcement.  All are satisfied in video games.  

According to David Greenfield, Ph.D., founder of the Center for Internet and Technology Addiction, Video games flood the pleasure center of the brain with Dopamine, giving gamers a rush - but only temporarily.  With excessive levels of dopamine lurking in the brain due to persistent gaming, the brain gets the message to produce less of this critical neurotransmitter.  This results in gamers having a diminished supply of dopamine, and relying on video games more and more in order to experience the effects of this ‘feel good’ hormone.  This is why we can see withdrawal symptoms when gamers try to reduce or stop this behavior, and why this behavior can become so difficult to change.  

Are there any benefits to gaming??  YES…..when used in moderation!

Video games have been shown to:

  1. Enhance visual capabilities
  2. Improve one’s multitasking abilities
  3. Improve one’s ability to engage in task switching
  4. Enhance cognitive flexibility (i.e. adapt to new information quickly, modify decision making as input comes in, etc)
  5. Improve coordination
  6. Enhance problem solving
  7. Enhance creativity
  8. Enhance opportunities to socialize when gaming with others

What Does a Healthy Relationship with Gaming Look Like?

  1. Video games do NOT interfere with sleep patterns or schedules
  2. The player takes regular breaks to use the restroom, eat meals, shower regularly, and complete all other necessary daily tasks
  3. The player is able to admit honestly how much time they spend gaming daily
  4. Video games have no effect on academic or professional performance
  5. The player spends time regularly with friends and family, and regularly socializes outside of virtual relationships
  6. Player is able to concentrate, focus, and attend to things when not gaming
  7. The player has hobbies and interests outside of gaming
  8. The player can easily accept an interruption when gaming
  9. The player maintains full control around the amount of time they spend playing