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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?

3
minute read

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.

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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.

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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.

11 Comments

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  1. Thank you for blogging this important message, that so many are dealing with. My family is seeking balance with video gaming addiction and day-to-day life. We’ve learned first-hand young gamers have not yet developed self-control, to admit the reality of how much time is spent playing video games and how much of their daily activities they are willing to trade for more and more game time. Adults must play an active role in young gamers’ lives to help them achieve and maintain balance by recognizing the problem of excessive playtime when exchanged for other life activities, by understanding the cause(s) that may lead to addictive behaviors, re-introducing a balance of life activities, and by considering possible solutions through seeking help and support. My 14-year-old son has become unrecognizable at times because of his transformed negative and enraged attitude, demanding more game time than is realistic. It’s deeply darkened and affected our family and our family is worth fighting for. As his mother, I have so many concerns, as I’m trying to keep his amazing spirit intact. I’ve known for some time he is prone to depression and has impulse control issues. As I research my options for supporting him, the most frightening fact I learned is excessive game time can accentuate these types of personality disorders. Gamers can develop impulsivity and hostility and they can even seek out other addictive behaviors, like substance abuse.
    Essentially these behaviors are a detachment from reality. And although reality isn’t always fun and rainbows, it’s the life we’ve been given, and I am committed to making it as balanced as I possibly can. I want to raise my son to be a high functioning member of society with a valuable self-image.

  2. Thank you for this valuable and timely blog.

    My family is seeking balance with video gaming addiction and day-to-day life. We’ve learned first-hand young gamers have not yet developed self-control, to admit the reality of how much time is spent playing video games and how much of their daily activities they are willing to trade for more and more game time. Adults must play an active role in young gamers’ lives to help them achieve and maintain balance by recognizing the problem of excessive playtime when exchanged for other life activities, by understanding the cause(s) that may lead to addictive behaviors, re-introducing a balance of life activities, and by considering possible solutions through seeking help and support. My 14-year-old son has become unrecognizable at times because of his transformed negative and enraged attitude, demanding more game time than is realistic. It’s deeply darkened and affected our family and our family is worth fighting for. As his mother, I have so many concerns, as I’m trying to keep his amazing spirit intact. I’ve known for some time he is prone to depression and has impulse control issues. As I research my options for supporting him, the most frightening fact I learned is excessive game time can accentuate these types of personality disorders. Gamers can develop impulsivity and hostility and they can even seek out other addictive behaviors, like substance abuse. Essentially these behaviors are a detachment from reality. And although reality isn’t always fun and rainbows, it’s the life we’ve been given, and I am committed to making it as balanced as I possibly can. I want to raise my son to be a high functioning member of society with a valuable self-image.

  3. Great Article ! Today, a lot of youngsters are struggling with behavioral problems,such as obsessive internet use and video game addiction. Well, parents should set limits and monitor their child’s use of the computer and/or video game console.Likewise,they should also encourage their children to go outside, be involved in a variety of activities, and have fun!

  4. > The truth is that few 12 programs for computer addicts exist.

    Things have changed a bit since 2011. Computer Gaming Addicts Anonymous holds two or three online meetings each day. While there are still only a few cities with meetings (New York, Cleveland, Detroit), there are many other cities with CGAA members in the process of starting meetings (as listed under Local Support Groups on the website.)

    The problem of and the awareness of gaming addiction keeps growing. It’s not hard to imagine that someday soon in wired countries the gaming addiction problem will be as widespread as drinking & drugging problems.

  5. Can you recommend any top rated online addiction treatment programs in the US with success rates? I am a parent who desperately needs help for my 18 year old son. Thank you.

  6. Gj nice article. Gaming can really become a problem. I’ve been reading everywhere to try to find some solutions. Quit-Your-Video-Addiction-Loser-ebookand it kind of help. Check it out. I’g going to continue looking for more

  7. I would like resources–psychotherapists–in the Atlanta GA area for a gaming addicted child (14 yrs.) old if you could help me find this…thanks. MPS

  8. Hi there, You have done an incredible job. I’ll definitely digg it and personally suggest to my friends. I am confident they can benefit from this post on video games. All the best, Ladonna

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