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A Promising New Treatment for Video Game Addiction

Last September, the World Health Organization added gaming disorder to the list of recognized diseases. Despite this, people still disagree that obsessively playing video games would be an addiction compared to drugs and alcohol. A recent study in Germany conducted a new form of treatment with 70% of its subjects falling into remission, showing that there is hope in helping control their video gaming habits before it takes over their life.

The Dangerous Effects of Video Gaming Addiction

Video gaming addiction is no joke—making video games your number one priority when you get out of bed can lead to serious consequences. You can deal with academic failure if playing video games takes priority over studying or writing papers for school. You can also suffer from financial ruin if you are spending too much money buying games, the equipment used for the games, or in-game purchases to improve your chances of winning. Your loved ones may also begin to feel left out as you isolate yourself from them and the world. 

Additionally, there are physical symptoms associated with gaming addiction like carpal tunnel syndrome, dry eyes, severe headaches, backaches, lack of sleep, not taking showers, or skipping meals. You could also develop depression or anxiety, as preferring to live as your avatar can lead to low self-esteem. The withdrawal symptoms are also very real, including mood swings, irritability, upset stomach, gaming fantasies, or boredom (since video games previously took up most of the day).

The Goal of the Study

If video gaming addiction is recognized as a true disorder, then thousands of people will be able to get themselves help. There have been past studies in regards to video game addiction, but there have only been small sample sizes or no control groups. Kai W. Müller, one of the authors of the study, said he wanted to avoid the types of problems—small and large—that past studies have made. He wanted to let people know that loving to play video games does not necessarily constitute an addiction. However, we still have to take people who are addicted to video games seriously and accept that they are in need of help. It is not about abstaining from video games, but to control their behavior with computers, the internet, and games.

Müller and his co-authors conducted this study from 2012 to 2017 in four outpatient clinics in Germany and Austria. The research was conducted on 143 men who were divided into two groups. 72 of them received treatment and 71 would act as the control group. Then, a modified form of cognitive-behavioral therapy was used that consisted of 15 weekly group sessions and eight two-week individual sessions. This form of therapy is about analyzing and adjusting your own thoughts. To better control the study, subjects who used psychiatric drugs and were not on drugs as part of the treatment were excluded.  

What Happened in the Study

The study started with an inventory of the patient’s characteristics that are believed to contribute to the development and maintenance of this gaming disorder. Using the scores from the Assessment of Internet and Computer Game Addiction survey, subjects were judged on 14 criteria including frequency of activity, video game preoccupation, withdrawal symptoms, and a loss of interest in other activities. Video game addiction was a score greater than 13 and remission was a score less than seven.

There were three phases in the study—education, intervention, and transition. Patients would be educated on their addiction as well as the effects. Patients also kept a diary of their video game triggers such as how they felt before a long gaming session and then learning to redirect that energy. This could mean enhancing how the patient reacts under stress, social skills, and understanding those emotional responses. By understanding them, you can create alternative explanations and reactions. 

The Results of the Study

When treatment was over, patients showed lower addiction symptoms like withdrawal and time spent online, as well as improved social, work, and daily functions. Patients also had an overall lower rate of depression with no important differences between the two groups. Only a small number of people became more depressed and had to be transferred to an inpatient facility. 

Limitation of the Study

As promising as this study was, it was not without its limitations. For example, the study was conducted exclusively on men. This was initially because it was said that men represented 90% of patients treated or diagnosed in outpatient facilities for video game addiction. The researchers later realized that it is only fair to represent both sexes in future clinical trials. Müller also feels that while women do get help for video gaming addiction, they do not seek treatment at rehab clinics—they find alternative forms of therapy for their problem instead of seeking addiction-related health care systems.

Despite this limitation, this study shows that effective treatment does not rely solely on drugs and staying away from video games. Quitting video games cold turkey will only lead to the same withdrawal symptoms that you experience with drug withdrawal. By using cognitive behavioral therapy to learn more about your addiction and changing your thought patterns, you should be able to transition to a typical life that does not revolve around video games.

Located on the shore of Southern New Jersey, Enlightened Solutions is a recovery center that uses evidence-based therapies and holistic healing to treat addiction and mental illness. With the opportunity to learn about therapies that are keyed in to healing the human spirit and learning about new stress-reducing techniques centered around a 12-step network, you will ensure a lasting recovery. For more information, please contact us today. We are open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

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