There are billions of video gamers across the world — and most of them are over 18. Most of them engage in moderation and value gaming as a primary hobby. However, research shows us that some 15 percent of gamers display addiction-like issues and at least 1 percent struggle with internet gaming disorder. If that number sounds small, reframe it by remembering that 1 percent of 3 billion is 30 million people.

Gaming addictions are behavioral addictions. This category also includes addictions to gambling, shopping, exercise, and food. They are diagnosable disorders that require treatment. In addition, there are helpful self-help steps the gamer can take.

Possible Warning Signs of Video Game Addiction

If you play video games, you could be at risk. However, co-factors could involve:

  • A history of addictions in the family
  • Co-existing mental illnesses make you more susceptible
  • Sex (since males tend to play video games far more often, they are at greater risk)

Common Warning Signs Include:

  • Wanting to stop but being unable to do so
  • Neglecting daily responsibilities, e.g. work, school, family, and personal hygiene
  • Hiding your gaming from loved ones
  • Withdrawing from friends.
  • Withdrawing from other hobbies or interests
  • Requiring more gaming time to feel the same pleasure
  • Sleep disturbances
  • Decreased appetite
  • Angry outbursts when you are prevented from gaming
  • Thinking about gaming even when you’re not playing
  • Feeling guilt and shame about the amount of time you allocate to gaming

If this sounds familiar or on the verge of being familiar, there are some steps you should consider taking.

photo of a person holding a video game controller in their hands with feet propped up on a table3 Strategies for Overcoming a Video Game Addiction

1. Set Self-Loving Limits

Among many other options, this might involve:

  • Deleting certain games from your devices
  • Keeping devices in only one location in your home
  • Ideally, remove any and all devices from your bedroom
  • Set strict time limits

That last entry could relate to how many days per week and how many hours per day. Combine with other screen limits (computer, TV, phone, etc.) to create a climate that is conducive to finding other activities to occupy your time and mind.

2. Cultivate New Hobbies and Interests

Video games on their own are not the problem. When you become almost exclusively attached to them, addiction becomes a serious danger. This can be counterbalanced by partaking in activities that keep your attention. Ideally, these interests would not involve you being sedentary. You might want to try walking, playing a sport, or joining a gym.

Also, many folks use gaming to relieve stress and “escape” from everyday life. There are far healthier and more effective options at your disposal, e.g. yoga, meditation, playing music, making art, and volunteering to help others.

3. Ask for Help and Support

If you feel like you’ve lost control of your gaming habits, you may have more help available than you realize. Trusted friends and family members can be there to listen and also to help you set limits. Ask people to check in with you and let them know you’re looking for new ways to spend your leisure time.

Talk to a Professional

Video games are often the stuff of silly memes and jokes. When viewed in that light, we can lose sight of the need for self-control and moderation. This is where an experienced therapist can be indispensable. In your sessions, you can learn more about behavioral addictions. You can also open up about what you feel when you think about gaming.

If you’ve underestimated the hold gaming has on you, let’s talk. If you’ve tried the self-help steps above with change, let’s talk in anxiety therapy. You can enjoy gaming as a tangential part of your life but it may require that you get help from someone who understands.