eNewsletter - January 2020

Behavioral Health Partners

Increasing Concerns of Gaming and Life Avoidance
By Kimberly Reiser, NCC, CAADC, LPC


A 2018 study released by Electronic Entertainment Design and Research reports that about 67% of Americans play video games on at least one device, with more than half playing on multiple platforms. Video games are part of life for many, but for some, the activity is more than just a hobby. In fact, some players may be seeking basic psychological needs by engaging in compulsive game play.

It’s human nature to seek out feelings of competency, but with complicated story lines and rewards, video games are built to excessively feed that desire. Video games provide players with a sense of autonomy. While they may not feel they have control in their real lives, in the game, they feel independent and successful.

In addition, the social connection or sense of relatedness players get from multiple-player games provides a false sense of social connectedness. When gamers meet basic psychological needs through play, the risk for game addiction and avoidance of regular life increases.

In the most severe cases, gaming addiction and life avoidance can become so destructive that it can lead to other mental health concerns such as anxiety or depression. As providers, we must be able to identify the signs which may indicate gaming addiction in order to move our patients forward with treatment.  Signs includes:

  • Practicing avoidance behavior. Playing video games in order to escape reality or avoid problems in real life is a red flag. Once immersed, some may find it hard to perform activities of daily living, such as showering or other self-care functions. For adolescents, parents may play a role in enabling the avoidance behavior as they step in to meet a teen’s needs.
  • Missing obligations. When game play becomes problematic, school, work or other responsibilities may be missed. Well-meaning parents or family members may get involved here as well, providing excuses and warding off consequences.
  • Lying. It’s common for gamers to underestimate the amount of time they spend playing, but deliberately lying about time spent on computer or video games signifies a problem.
  • Seeking primary socialization from games. Games can be fun and entertaining, but when people choose video games as their primary form of socialization, isolating themselves from their friends and family, there is cause for concern. Gaming is not a substitute for real human relationships and interactions.
  • Experiencing intense feelings during or away from game play. Addicted gamers may report intense feelings of pleasure or guilt while playing, or anger or restlessness when away from their game.

Finding more resources. Once problematic behavior has been identified, motivational interviewing can be helpful in building trust and encouraging patients to make healthier life choices.  With adolescents, family involvement is crucial. To connect with a certified therapist, please call the Linden Oaks Help Line (available 24/7) at 630-305-5027 and one of our assessment professionals will assist.