How much time do you spend looking at a screen every day? As technology advances and life moves further online, mental health continues to evolve. There’s no doubt that being plugged in has had a positive effect on mental health and treating it (telehealth, anyone?) but it has also resulted in a rise of new disorders., like Internet Gaming Disorder.

In essence, this means that some individuals use the Internet to play games, alone or with others, to such a degree that it interferes with their daily lives or causes significant distress. Although initial research suggests a higher prevalence rate in males, Internet Gaming Disorder can affect both genders and individuals across the lifespan.

In recent years there’s been one infamous game in particular that has attracted media attention and is often at the centre of horror stories being swapped by parents around the school gates.  It’s the new ‘F’ word and incorporates a special blend of rewards, time pressure, and social interaction that can get children, adolescents, and adults alike hooked.

So what are the signs that you or someone you know may be engaging in problematic gaming behaviour?

  • Spending an excessive amount of time thinking about and playing Internet games. This preoccupation becomes a priority over other life areas and responsibilities, often impacting school, work, and relationships.
  • Removing or preventing access to gaming results in significant distress and emotional withdrawal symptoms like irritability, anxiety, or sadness.
  • There’s no set period of time that automatically qualifies as “too much” but usage often increases over time. A tolerance can be developed in much the same way that people can become tolerant of certain medications or substances and need more to achieve the same results as previously.
  • Difficulty controlling gaming habits, even after recognising that quality of life has been severely impacted. Individuals may lie to others about their level of Internet gaming and could even have lost a job, been suspended from school, or had a relationship end because of their behaviour.
  • Using gaming as a way to escape life and negative moods or emotions.

Not every symptom noted has to be present for Internet Gaming Disorder, but if any of them sound all-too-familiar, help isn’t far away. PsychMed provides a free therapy service that doesn’t require a referral which will see you sitting with one of our friendly, experienced therapists within 72 hours of your call. Contact us on 8232 2424 to find out more or book an appointment. Alternatively, your GP is also a great starting point for reaching out and understanding local services.