Treatment for video game addiction

People addicted to video games often show little motivation for making behavioral changes. So what are the alternatives for effective video game addiction treatment?

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People suffer from video game addictions

Although experts still don’t agree on whether compulsive video gaming should be a psychiatric classification or just a subcategory of other disorders, video game addiction is for real. People who self-report compulsive use and dependence on gaming show significant consequences to their professional, academic (school), social and family lives. Although the prevalence rates for addictions to computer games are less precise than substance use disorders (and difficult to measure based on absence of consensus and the use of diverse names), mental health experts are beginning to address a new generation of technology-based addictive disorders that affect millions of people. Here are three ways how experts have started treating video game cause and effect.

1. Counseling and Psychotherapy

A number of different types of counseling options exist to help video game addicts address compulsive video games use. Individual one-on-one counseling, family counseling or even parent-only counseling are ways to start exploring how technology has come to direct the life of a game addict. In fact, one recent German study noted that behavioral change often DOES NOT originate with the video game addict themselves. Instead, the study suggests that psychologists treat and train their relatives to motivate change. But in general, psychotherapy should address how video gaming is related to:

  • academic life
  • career life
  • issues of anxiety
  • issues of depression
  • life rewards

2. Controlled use or abstinence

The majority of addiction treatment paradigms require lifetime abstinence from all addictive substances. Many process addictions, however, do not fit the same total-abstinence model. Furthermore, imposed abstinence from authority figures can lead to serious problems and encourage power struggles.

People diagnosed with addictions related to video game use are not necessarily expected to exclude gaming from their lives. Instead, the idea is to find a healthy balance between time spent playing games, life responsibilities and quality of life definitions. In this light, video game addicts can avoid or eliminate behaviors which cause loss of control or bring on negative consequences. At the same time, healthy behaviors can be emphasized. When abstinence from addictive behavior is defined in this context gaming is possible, and lifetime “abstinence” is more realistically attainable.

3. Medication for video game addicts

Although medications may not appeal to some, they can help change the brain chemistry to help decrease cravings for video game play. One medication in particular, Bupropion, has been user to inhibit dopamine and norepinephrine reuptake in the brain, thereby affecting the “pleasure center” of the brain that is rewarded after repetitive gaming. Researchers recently found that craving for video game play, total game play time, and cue-induced brain activity decreased after a 6 week period of bupropion SR. More information about clinical trials using Bupropion here.

Additionally, studies have linked excessive technology use with undiagnosed mental health disorders such as anxiety, depression and even adult forms of ADHD. So, it is also important that someone diagnosed with video game addition seek medication options which can help with diagnosed anxiety, depression, OCD, ICD, etc.

What about 12 step programs for video games?

The truth is that few 12 programs for computer addicts exist. And even those in larger cities such as NYC have only periodic meetings due to low attendance. If you are looking for principles and guidelines of twelve step groups related to gaming, check out Online Gamers Anonymous website.  While most of the ideas are target online games and gamers, they can be applied to other video games.

Questions about video game addiction

Do you have a questions about video game addiction or its treatment? Please ask below. We will try our best to answer you quickly and thoroughly.

Reference sourcese: Journal of the Brazilian Psychiatric Association, June 2008, 30(2):156-67. Internet and videogame addiction: a review
The Call for a New Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders Diagnosis: Addictive Disorders

Experimental and Clinical Psychopharmacology, August 2010, 18(4):297-304. Bupropion sustained release treatment decreases craving for video games and cue-induced brain activity in patients with Internet video game addiction.
Psychiatrische Praxis, July 2010;37(5):219-24 Internet and computer game addiction: phenomenology, comorbidity, etiology, diagnostics and therapeutic implications for the addictives and their relatives
About the author
Lee Weber is a published author, medical writer, and woman in long-term recovery from addiction. Her latest book, The Definitive Guide to Addiction Interventions is set to reach university bookstores in early 2019.
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