•    Online Gaming is an extremely popular pastime with people of all ages and one that keeps many of us both busy and entertained.

•    There is nothing wrong with online gaming until the gaming becomes truly addictive.

•    You may have a Gaming Addiction if your gaming is damaging other aspects of your life, and you find it difficult to stop gaming despite those negative consequences.

What is gaming addiction?

Online games are a form of video game that is played over some sort of computer network. Many online games are played directly from your personal computer or smart phone, whereas others, such as the Wii, PlayStation or Xbox, require a video game console. Games can be single player, or more commonly nowadays, you can compete against other people, in real time, over the internet.

Club Penguin is an immensely popular online game for young children. Second Life is popular amongst older users. And there are thousands of games of different variety available on your iphones and ipads.

Like most things in life, the activity of online gaming is only problematic when your play starts to have a negative impact on other aspects of your life. Gaming Addiction happens when your gaming behaviour becomes compulsive, and you are unable to stop playing despite the negative effect it is having on your life.

Why are online games so addictive?

Do you have an iphone? Are you addicted to a couple of your apps? Do you play Words with Friends when you should be talking to your partner? Are your kids engrossed in Cut the Rope or I-slash and forgetting to do their homework? Are you jumping online to play a computer game whenever you have some down time?

What makes online gaming so addictive? Psychologists from the University of Rochester in the United States have recently conducted research into the phenomenon. They concluded that people are attracted to gaming because the experience is intrinsically satisfying on a deep psychological level. This suggests that the allure of gaming is more than just for the ‘fun’ of it. Indeed, psychologists conducting this research suggest that gaming gives players a sense of achievement, enables them to feel connected with other players, and stimulates feelings of competence. So there is, in fact, a deep sense of satisfaction that is created by many online games and so gaming may actually have psychological benefits for players.

So when does Gaming Addiction become a problem?

The possible psychological benefits of gaming are short-lived if the player becomes involved with the game to the detriment of other aspects of their life, such as school, work, and most importantly, real-life relationships.

Gaming addiction in children and young people

While it is not at all unhealthy for children or adults to play video games from time to time, online gaming can be extremely addictive. Family management patterns may encourage this addictive behaviour. Imagine, for example, a young person who comes home from school every afternoon and engages in game play, pausing only for a brief period during dinner time. Dinner in the family home is usually had while watching television and the adults engage their children in little conversation because they have their own problems to worry about or are exhausted from a long day at work. While the adults may try to persuade their child to do their homework, or engage in a physical activity in the park after dinner, ultimately they are happy that their child is preoccupied with their video game, because this allows them to enjoy relative peace and quiet before going to bed and getting ready to face another hard day at work.

In this way, parents may actually reinforce the addictive behaviour of gaming. Parents may wish to consider putting rules in place to curb gaming activity so that it doesn’t overwhelm a child’s other interests.

Gaming addiction in adults

Young adults, while they are certainly identified as a high-risk group, are not alone in their risk of developing severe gaming addictions. Adults of both genders are also susceptible to gaming addictions, particularly at risk are those who experience anxiety or discomfort in social situations and who tend to avoid these by resorting to video or online gaming. Online gaming offers people with social phobia the ability to virtually socialise, while it also helps alleviate social boredom. However, those without a social phobia or who are not natural introverts are also prone to developing a gaming addiction, which once developed, may then lead to introverted and reclusive behaviours. (This article is electronically protected – Copyright © Associated Counsellors & Psychologists Sydney PTY LTD)

What are the symptoms of gaming addiction?

Do you:
• play online games every day?
• play online games when you know you should be doing something else?
• play online games instead of socialising or talking to your family or friends?
• think a lot about your game when you are away from it?
• feel nervous or uptight when you are not playing?
• often hear your family or friends complaining that you are always online?

If you feel anxious or restless when you are separated from your game by family, social, work or other obligations, and dedicate a significant amount, if not almost all, your free time to gaming, then you most likely do suffer from an addiction to gaming. Additionally, if you find yourself unable to derive pleasure from other activities and rely on video and/or online gaming as your sole or primary source of enjoyment, then you may also be afflicted with a compulsive addiction to gaming.

Counselling help for gaming addiction

Speaking to a counsellor, psychologist or therapist about your online playing patterns will help you better understand the underlying causes for your addiction. Counsellors may also impress upon you a range of coping skills to help diversify the range of activities from which you derive pleasure during leisure time.

Talking to an addictions therapist about your gaming addiction is a healthy first step  to take toward overcoming this problem.  A trained counsellor or psychologis can help you identify why you feel compelled to engage in gaming and also teach you better coping skills for long term prevention for relapsing into this behaviour (This article is electronically protected – Copyright © Associated Counsellors & Psychologists Sydney PTY LTD)

If you are concerned about your behaviour when it comes to gaming, or feel you may have developed an addiction to gaming, and would like to book a consultation with a qualified counsellor, psychologist or therapist, or would like to obtain further advice please contact Associated Counselors & Psychologists Sydney.

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