Internet / Gaming Addiction Counseling for Young Adults

Has Internet Gaming Become The Centerpiece Of Your Life?

Do you stay up late gaming, maybe go to work or school, and then immediately return to your games? Do you closely associate yourself with your avatar and have more intimate relationships with the characters in your game than with friends or family outside of the gaming world? Have your grades or work suffered due to long hours spent gaming? Have your parents or other people close to you expressed concerns about your gaming? Have you, too, started to wonder if you are spending too much time on your games? Alternatively, do you think that the concerns of others are unwarranted and believe that your relationship with gaming is not a problem?

If you game for many hours a day, your gaming is affecting work, school or relationships and you feel a greater connection to the characters in your games than you do to people in your real life, your gaming may have shifted from what could be considered normal, healthy use into a problem. Although many problem gamers insist that no problem exists, much like other pleasure-inducing activities, gaming releases dopamine and can be addictive. Gaming can also compromise sleep, deregulate healthy eating and exercise routines, and create or compound existing social anxieties. If your gaming is beginning to become a problem or has already become the centerpiece of your life, getting help as a young adult can help prevent a host of problems from occurring as you continue into adulthood.

Internet Gaming Is On The Rise

Internet gaming is becoming an increasingly common issue affecting young adults, and the time and money spent on the gaming industry is rising daily. It’s the fastest growing media outlet, and it is having a significant impact predominately on teenage and young adult males. There is still no DSM 5 diagnosis for Internet addiction; however, the American Psychiatric Association recently identified Internet gaming disorder as an issue needing further research. While many young adults participate in Internet games, some take it to an obsessive level. Obsessive gamers tend to spend more time developing their “character” and interacting in a virtual world with other characters than they do with real people, in real time and space. These characters become their friends and, as a result, young adult gamers can experience increased social isolation and develop long-term, real world social difficulties.

You Can Develop A Healthy Relationship With Media

Although therapy can be an effective way to treat media and gaming disorders, treating these disorders can be difficult due to the prevalence of media in day-to-day life.  Treating someone with an Internet problem is similar to treating someone with an eating issue. Like food, it’s not possible to remove the object of the addictive behavior. That said, it is critically important that you work with a therapist who is specifically trained to treat Internet gaming and media addiction.

Your highly trained and experienced BPS therapist can help devise a plan to remove all media and, after a period of abstinence, reintegrate back into your life in a slow, balanced and methodical way. Because gaming is an addictive disorder, you may experience withdrawal symptoms, such as heightened irritability, impulsivity and anger. Your therapist can help you develop ways to manage these intense emotions, as well as create healthy coping skills and more balance in your life.

Your BPS therapist can also help you identify, understand and address the issues associated with your compulsive gaming. Like any other addiction, there are underlying causes that fuel the abuse. Obsessive gaming may be filling needs related to social anxiety, self-esteem issues, or depression. With help, you can learn social skill building, anxiety reduction techniques and work on self-esteem and self-awareness issues. In time, you can learn to cope with complex emotions in ways that don’t include gaming, identify triggers, and engage in the real community in ways that feel good. Your therapist can also help you work through feelings of grief and loss that may emerge as the gaming decreases and “friends” created in virtual worlds are lost. You can also work on self-identity issues and figure out who you are in the real world when there is less association with an avatar.

If your gaming is really obsessive and you are still living at home, your therapist may suggest family therapy. Family therapy can help improve the family dynamic, communication and accountability, and offer you added support as you spend less time in the gaming world and launch into adulthood.

With help, you can learn how to use media without it being the centerpiece of your life. A healthy and balanced relationship with the Internet is possible. Addressing your gaming and related issues now can set you up for future success and a more balanced and happy life.

But, you still may have questions or concerns…

I think that therapy could be helpful, but I’m concerned about costs.

This is your life and wellbeing. Addressing your Internet gaming now can prevent a host of problems from occurring with work, school and relationships as you continue into adulthood. Investing in your self now may also prevent you from developing increased anxiety and social isolation.

Many people come to BPS having worked with other therapists who were not trained to work specifically with young adults and Internet gaming or who they couldn’t relate with – which is a waste of time and money. At BPS, we’ll conduct an initial assessment and match you with a therapist who is trained and experienced to treat young adults suffering from media and gaming disorders and whose personality is a good match for you. Once you find that good match, making a commitment to yourself may be one of the most valuable investments there is. Imagine feeling and functioning better in the real world on a regular basis and ask yourself what that’s worth.

If money still is an issue, you can talk with your BPS therapist to see if they work on a sliding scale. They may also be able to help you find other lower cost resources in the community.

I’m only considering therapy because someone in my life is making me. I really don’t have a problem.

Denial is the hallmark of any addiction. It allows users to remain reactionary rather than thoughtful. That said, you might not have a problem. But, there is obviously something in your behavior around gaming or the Internet that is causing someone who cares about you to voice concern.

A BPS therapist can conduct an initial assessment to help determine if a problem does exist. If it does, dealing with it now – as a young adult – can have a powerful and positive impact on your life now and in the future. Learning what triggers you to game and developing a healthier and more balanced relationship with media now can also prevent a multitude of problems from occurring later in your life.

I’m worried that if I go to therapy I’ll be forced to admit that I have a problem and have to stop gaming.

Take a moment to consider what you’re willing to give up to continue gaming. Friends? Family? A career? An education? Romance? If you really do have an Internet gaming disorder and it is left untreated, it will likely worsen and you could lose the opportunity to experience all of those things.

Internet gaming recovery takes time and effort, but you will not be alone. Your BPS therapist can help you learn more about the negative impacts of obsessive technology use and develop an understanding about the root causes of your use. In time and with help, you can learn how to integrate media into your life in a healthy and balanced way.

We encourage you to schedule an initial assessment with a BPS therapist, trained by BPS Director Dr. Jan Hittelman. We will work with you to determine what your specific issues are and ensure a good match between you a BPS therapist in terms of personality, style and expertise.

You can also check out our free, online therapist directory, which will match you and with a therapist who has expertise working with young adults on Internet gaming issues.

kat-austinBPS therapist Kat Austin, LPC, LAC, LMFT,  helped create the content for this page. Kat is a licensed professional counselor as well as a highly experienced licensed addiction counselor. She has been working with young adults with Internet gaming issues since 2000.

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