8 Top Tips to Overcome Video Game Addiction
Updated on August 18, 2021 by Amit Asskoumi
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Video game addiction is more prevalent than ever. With our advanced smartphones and top-of-the-range PCs and gaming consoles, it’s never been easier to play our favorite video games.
Many people undergo the inability to control their impulse to play video games, to the point where it severely damages their quality of life. The World Health Organisation (WHO) now recognizes gaming addiction as an official mental health disorder. Hence video game addiction treatment programs like The Mindful Gamer have developed to help people put down the controller and take control of their life. We asked them for some top tips to help overcome video game addiction – and here’s what they had to say!
8 Top Tips to Overcome Video Game Addiction
1. Create a Schedule
A video game addict’s day is often the product of their addiction. If they are not playing for long hours, they are often left thinking about when they can get home and do it all again. However, by writing up a strict schedule or agenda (and sticking to it) we can create good habits for productivity. By filling the day with important tasks we remove the possibility of playing video games and give our day a sense of direction.
Those who have tried to quit playing video games understand that cravings are very real – and can be quite intense! These cravings often lead to the individual becoming emotional and not in the best frame of mind to make sensible decisions. Hence the schedule is extremely important for removing poor decisions on what to do next – the day is already laid out.
2. Remove Devices from the Bedroom
For many of us, it’s a routine to pull out our smartphones or gadgets before bed to wind down into the evening. However, as someone who is dealing with video game addiction, this can be a huge contributing factor to their problems. Playing for hours on end before bed doesn’t just fuel gaming addiction, but it damages sleep quality and the ability to get to bed due to overstimulation and exposure to blue light. Not only that, but it creates an association with our bedroom, telling our brains that it is a place for gaming. This alone can detrimental to our sleep. Professionals consider it to be similar to how we subconsciously associate the gym with exercise and the classroom or office with work. The same principle applies to the bedroom and sleep.
So the best solution to this is to remove all devices (including phones) from the bedroom to lessen the playing time and improve sleep.
3. Play In Moderation
As obvious as this sounds, it is a totally viable and effective solution if done correctly. Most times people attempt to play in moderation they get pulled into the trap of “five more minutes” or “just one more level”. However, an effective time management technique called the Pomodoro Technique has been shown to massively decrease the time spent playing video games and increase productivity.
So how does it work? Well, the concept is simple. The person playing is only allowed to play for 25-minute intervals. After the 25-minutes is up, they must take a 5-minute break then resume playing for 25-minutes again. During these 5-minute breaks, they must occupy themselves in a non-gaming-related way. For instance, cleaning the room, going for a walk, or reading a book. Basically – anything that does not have an association with video games. However, the catch is, after every 4 rounds of playing we must increase the length of our 5-minute breaks, to 10-minutes, 15-minutes, and so on. This should ultimately increase until we are doing other activities longer than we are gaming!
Some activities to avoid during our breaks are browsing the internet, going on our phones, or watching gaming content from various platforms, as this will offer the same type of stimulation as gaming.
4. Video Game Detoxification
The process of detoxification is all about cutting out video games for an extended period of time while the addicted brain recovers. Video game addiction is a behavioral addiction where the brain is addicted to the dopamine we receive from playing video games. Over a long period of gaming, the brain begins to become desensitized to the dopamine rush it gets from gaming and requires more for the same level of enjoyment. This, therefore, leads to the individual playing more hours and experiencing cravings when these dopamine levels aren’t met.
However, this is nothing to be too worried about as our bodies are amazing at recovering and can totally heal in time if we allow it to. During a video game detox, we are simply allowing our brains enough time to regain it’s sensitivity to dopamine and its baseline levels to reset.
What is the recommended time? For those suffering from severe symptoms of video game addiction specialists recommend 90 days away from gaming. This is the same principle that will be carried out with in-patient treatment centers. For 90 days an individual must not play any video games or consume any gaming-related content in order to avoid that dopamine rush. Often, those who complete the detoxification gain a lot of perspective in their time off and report an improvement in their quality of life. This improvement is seen across personal relationships, focus, performance at school/work, energy levels, and general mood throughout the day!
After people complete a gaming detox, the decision to play is theirs to decide (whether they have the self-control to return). The difference is they are now armed with the knowledge that was needed to overcome their addiction.
5. Set Healthy Limits
This is similar to playing in moderation but mainly refers to those who struggle with setting self-imposed limits and need that extra push to get them moving in the right direction. To start off, determine what a healthy amount of time spent gaming is in the context of your life.
Everyone’s lifestyle and demands are vastly different so the time may vary. We recommend that the time doesn’t exceed two hours or interfere with any of the day’s important responsibilities. Once this has been decided, there are multiple websites, applications, and browser extensions used to limit the amount of time we spend on devices or gaming. Here are some examples that might come in handy:
- For limiting gaming on PC: StayFocused, Freedom, WasteNoTime, and LeechBlock;
- Limiting gaming on mobile: Rescue Time, Moment, ColdTurkey, and FocusMe;
- Limits set by others: if these apps are unavailable for your gaming console or are not enough to prevent excessive gaming, then try asking a family or friend give you a hand. Ask a family member or friend that you confide in to hang onto your gaming console or hide it for the times that you are not allowed to play. Often, just telling the person what you are trying to achieve will increase your motivation to your commitment and help build momentum.
6. Discovering a New Passion
The vast demographic of gaming addicts say that gaming is their passion. This may very well be the case, especially after years of playing, enjoying hard-fought victories, and investing long hours into improving. However, the detrimental effects of their passion are not healthy or sustainable. And this is why a new passion must be found.
As some who have tried to give up gaming may know, a common feature of this is simply not enjoying any other activities except gaming. A large community on the r/StopGaming Reddit run into the problem of not being fulfilled or lacking interest in anything else.
Our solution is to fill the void with multiple different activities. Gaming is a unique hobby as it satisfies many of our requirements as humans: the need to socialize, the need to see measurable growth, and a feel-good sensation to relax. Hence social, stimulating, and relaxation activities need to be discovered in order to replace gaming:
- Social Activity – could be concerts/festivals, dance class or martial arts;
- Stimulating Activity – something to replace the overstimulation you received from gaming like learning an instrument, learning a new language, or starting an online business;
- Relaxing Activity – for many, video games were a way to relax at the end of the day or de-stress so some alternatives might be reading, drawing, listening to music, meditating or cooking;
One thing to remember is that passions aren’t formed overnight. Just as gaming took years to become your favorite thing to do, a different one will require the same commitment. Staying consistent with a new routine is what provides the opportunity for passion to grow!
7. Find Your Values
This is all about finding what gives you fulfillment in life. This is not to be confused with a hobby, but rather a direction and way to carry yourself, that brings meaning to your life. For instance, if someone values being a good mother, they do it because they value the quality of being a good mother. There are no other incentives behind looking after their children, raising them well, and being a good mother. Many people who endure video game addiction feel directionless. Some may well want to achieve things and become accomplished people, but their lack of direction and addiction ultimately leads them back to playing video games.
One exercise to determine your values is to grab a pen and paper and find a quiet room where you can think. Here, try to write down the answer to the following question – “If you could win an award for what you have done in your life, for the most important things you can think of, what would it be for?”. It could be anything – no matter how big or how small:
- A reward for being a caring friend.
- A reward for being a generous person.
- A reward for always studying or working hard.
- A reward for being active and healthy.
- A reward for putting family first.
Anything that was important to you. Remember to choose freely without any external pressure.
One more question to answer is “What do you want to be known for when you are gone?” Maybe “you were an honest person?”. Maybe, “you were a very driven person?”. Maybe, “you worked hard to make the world a better place?”. Whatever brings meaning to your life and what you stood for – these answers are a good reflection of what you intrinsically value. Knowing this is powerful in creating a sense of direction to help overcome video game addiction.
8. Seek Help
Sometimes video game addiction is not as cut and dry as it seems. With any addiction, it comes with a great deal of shame, guilt, and anxiety. These emotions make it very difficult for those suffering to reach out for help. However, the worst thing that someone in this position can do is isolate themselves.
Research shows that there is a link between video game addiction and other comorbid mental health conditions such as depression, anxiety, and ADHD. Consulting a mental health professional may be the best step towards recovery. There is no shame in seeking out professional help and we strongly recommend, that if you or anyone you know is suffering from video game addiction, then get them the help they deserve. Telling family and friends is exactly the support network you need when dealing with any addiction.
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