Video game addiction is a behavioral addiction similar to gambling addiction. The user gets high levels of stimulation and dopamine release when they carry out this activity. So much so, that their brain begins to associate gaming with a great reward.
Video game addiction has been recognised by the World Health Organisation as a mental disorder based on statistical data. They explain that the criteria to diagnose someone with video game addiction goes as follows: “For gaming disorder to be diagnosed, the behaviour pattern must be of sufficient severity to result in significant impairment in personal, family, social, educational, occupational or other important areas of functioning” This would typically be over a 12 month period.
Due to the pandemic, many people were forced inside, turning to video games as a primary source of entertainment. This has left numerous gamers with an unhealthy addiction. So, today we are going to look at 5 self-help techniques you can use to help overcome your addiction.
Video Game Detox
A video game detox essentially means cutting out video games for an extended period of time. That doesn’t mean we stop playing Minecraft just to pick up League of Legends. It means no video games at all, including watching video game-related content in some cases.
It can be daunting to go cold turkey but there are many benefits to be had from this. For starters, it allows the brain some time to recover from the constant dopamine overload it was receiving from video games. Most people notice a remarkable improvement in their mood and mental state due to this. Secondly, it gives the addicted gamers some perspective. Most gaming addicts do not remember what life was like without video games. Hence this allows them to enjoy some of the finer pleasures in the real world as opposed to the virtual one.
Video game detoxes are most effective over a 90-day period. Completing a 90-day detox shows an improvement across many areas of everyday life relationships, motivation, mood, concentration and much more.
Here are a few things you can implement to resist the temptation and begin your detox:
- Lock gaming consoles away in a hard-to-reach place
- Hide gaming controllers somewhere hard to access
- Delete desktop shortcuts to games
- Give your consoles or passwords to a friend/family member if you can’t be trusted with self-imposed limits
- Uninstall the game altogether if you’re ready to take that leap
After cutting video games out, you will start to feel some withdrawal symptoms. Hence why we can use some of these other techniques to curb these feelings and stay focused.
Journaling in general is a great technique when it comes to improving our thoughts. Hence, it is used in many forms of gaming addiction treatment and courses of CBT. The journaling exercise we’re going to be focused on today is Trigger Journaling.
The aim of trigger journaling is to write down every time we feel the urge to play video games. The purpose of this is to disconnect from these emotional and overwhelming urges. When we write down our urges and how it makes us feel in a journal we can visualize them as words on a page as opposed to an uncomfortable emotion.
In order to journal correctly, we encourage you to use an actual pen and paper to get the most out of this exercise. Typing it into a digital device somewhat defeats the purpose of what we’re trying to do.
Every time you feel the urge to play video games:
- Write down in your journal how it’s making you feel
- Next, write down what initiated this trigger. Was it an advert on tv, a conversation or a message from a friend?
- Finally, write down the time that it happened
Slowly but surely writing down these urges will start to give them less control over us as they are simple words on a page. Furthermore, we will get a better understanding of what triggers our video game cravings so we know what to avoid.
Alternative Activities To Gaming
Once you go on a gaming detox it’s safe to say that you’re going to have a lot of time on your hands. Those who are addicted to video games will play excessively and hence cutting out gaming will leave them with a massive void of free time to fill. In most cases of relapse, individuals who are on a detox attempt to kill all of this free time that they have. The problem is that it is simply too much time to kill and boredom inevitably gets the better of them.
To avoid this we need to make a change in our attitude towards free time. Gamers shouldn’t be looking to kill their time but rather invest in it. Hours may begin to drag without gaming hence we recommend filling your day with alternative activities. Gaming is a very unique and diverse hobby. It satisfies so many different areas of human entertainment in one place. Gaming provides social interaction, measurable growth and rewards and relaxing activity to distract us from the troubles of life.
In order to work around this and avoid getting bored, we are going to need to find a few different activities that satisfy the things that gaming used to do.
- A social activity like team sports, martial arts and dance classes. Anywhere you can meet new like-minded people to hang out with
- An activity that provides measurable growth. Maybe skills like learning a new language, an instrument or working out. As humans, we are wired to set goals and see growth as it makes us feel good so these are important
- Finally a relaxing activity like cooking, drawing or reading. Anything that doesn’t require much energy and can help you unwind
We need to be realistic in the activities that we invest our time in. We can’t head to the gym every time we feel like playing video games as this could be 10 times a day. So take some time to find what interests you.
Mindfulness meditations are an essential part of CBT practices. CBT stands for the cognitive behavioral therapy and it is one of the leading treatments for video game addiction. When some people hear the word meditations they think of someone sitting cross-legged humming to the sound of a gong. However, this is not what meditation means in this context.
Mindfulness meditation refers to thought exercises that help to bring our attention to the present moment. This is essential for people who struggle with negative thoughts, cravings and overwhelming emotions, as bringing your attention to the present shifts your focus away from the discomfort you might be feeling.
When a video game addict feels cravings they can cause an emotional response which makes it difficult to think rationally. Someone in this state is far more likely to relapse. Mindfulness meditations tend to focus on a few things; they bring the individual’s attention to their breathing, their senses and the environment around them. These things are all constants which we can refer to at any time. Mindfulness meditations can be used anywhere which is what makes them such a powerful tool.
Mindfulness is also a skill. Hence the more you practice it the better you get. After a few weeks of using your meditations to keep your mind away from cravings, it will become less and less effort to do so. These meditations can be practiced by yourself or with guided audio or teacher. Here are some great exercises to get you started.
Finally, we have self-help programs. These are online courses of CBT that you can use to help you overcome your addiction. Many of them are full of actionable advice, thought exercises and guided meditations to help get your back in the driver’s seat.
The reason why online courses of CBT work so well is unlike many other forms of therapy CBT is pragmatic. It’s all about working through the most relevant problem you’re having with your addiction at that time. It takes a logical approach to help you with your most pressing issue first. Thus courses of CBT come with comprehensive treatment for all different areas of your recovery.
If your gaming addiction continues to have detrimental impacts on your life then don’t hesitate to reach out. Talk to friends, family members and most importantly, a trained medical professional who can offer you the best guidance.