The past couple of years have seen a rapid escalation in the number of teenagers becoming addicted to gaming and online gaming in Britain. There have even been reports of a 9-year old girl receiving treatment for addiction to the video game Fortnite, although we question the accuracy of these reports as there are no rehabs for children in the UK.
Gaming addiction, also known as gaming disorder, was at last officially recognised by the NHS as a mental health disorder in January of this year (2018).
Is it a case of too little too late? Is there adequate treatment available through the NHS or the UK’s private addiction treatment sector?
PCP receives numerous enquiries from parents who are worried that their children are spending too much time gaming. Teenagers suffering from gaming addiction or gaming disorder often neglect or miss their school/college, work and their social life and friends.
In the most severe cases of gaming addiction, the sufferer can stay up for days and nights at a time with little or no sleep, a poor diet and neglected hygiene. This can result in them become deeply depressed, anxious and even suicidal.
The Telegraph newspaper very recently reported on the case of a 15-year-old British schoolboy; who is the first child to be diagnosed with a gaming addiction by the NHS.
The child’s mother, Miss Kendal Parmar batted with the World Health Organisation (WHO) for three years to have her son’s condition recognised as a medical and mental health disorder.
Miss Kendal Parmar’s victory will bring a huge sigh of relief to many parents who are struggling to access professional help and treatment for their children. Sadly before now, gaming addiction has only been recognised in the UK by the private rehab sector.
Due to red tape, legalities, insurance and lack of funding available, private rehabs are only generally able to treat those aged 18 and over, who are then legally recognised as adults.
Recognising The Signs of Gaming Addiction
If you are a parent that is worried that your child may be addicted to gaming, there are definite signs to watch out for. Prompt and drastic action is required in order to address the problem and stop it from progressing further.
Please remember that as a parent, whilst your child is still classified as a child and living with you, that you have a legal responsibility to ensure that they access the correct addiction and mental health treatment as soon as possible.
Signs of gaming addiction include:
- Extended periods of time spend isolated in their room gaming
- Neglecting school work, college, work and sleep in order to play the game or games
- Becoming very upset and distressed or aggressive and angry if there is a threat that the game or gaming equipment will be removed
- They have stopped going out and socialising with friends
- They struggle to be “present” in the family home and appear preoccupied
- They show little or no interest in anything else, no matter how hard you try to encourage them to engage in healthier activities
- They may neglect their hygiene and refuse to leave the game in order to eat
- You may notice that they are up in the night, over-tired the next morning or they may frequently claim they are unwell so that they can stay home from school, college or work
- They start to become socially anxious and awkward
- They suffer from low self-esteem, depression and low self-confidence
- They have become distant and hard to communicate with
A piece on Good Morning Britain last month discusses child addiction to gaming, whether gaming can be good for children, and whether parents are to blame when kids become addicted.
Escaping Stress Through Gaming
It is very sad but true, that with the pressure put on young children to perform well at school, exams being introduced at a younger age, more marriage break ups and poverty than ever before, is it any wonder that the UK’s teenagers are seeking an escape in a world that is far removed from reality?
Diagnosing a Gaming Addiction
The World Health Organisation states:
“For gaming disorder to be diagnosed, the behaviour pattern must be of sufficient severity to result in significant impairment in personal, family, social, educational, occupational or other important areas of functioning and would normally have been evident for at least 12 months.”
PCP feel that 12 months is an excessive period of time for an addiction to be allowed to continue before professional help is sought. Please do not leave seeking gaming addiction treatment this long as more negative consequences and harm can be accumulated as a result.
Treatment For Gaming Addiction
Gaming addiction or gaming disorder is a very serious condition. It is no different from any other addiction. The brain is rewarded in a very similar way as if a drug was involved; gaming provides a complete escape from reality.
You may think that just disposing of the gaming equipment or the game will solve the problem, and to an extent, it will. However, your child or teenager will still be left with the reasons that they sought to escape themselves in the first place.
For a full recovery from gaming addiction, in addition to complete abstinence, we cannot stress enough how important psychological and cognitive treatment is required.
If your teenager is old enough to attend a private addiction rehab clinic, then this is the most intensive therapeutic addiction treatment available in the UK.
PCP treat gaming addiction successfully using a number of proven and highly effective therapies and treatments. All of our gaming rehab treatments are delivered by a team of qualified addiction specialists including Counsellors, Psychotherapists and Doctors. We provide affordable primary, secondary and tertiary care for those suffering from the illness of addiction.
Free Gaming Addiction Help and Support
If your child is under the age of 18, we strongly recommend you approach your doctor or a private addiction counsellor that is qualified and insured to treat under 18’s
Family Lives also offers advice and support to parents that are struggling to successfully address a teenage gaming problem.
It is very important not to ignore the problem, dismiss it as a phase or enable it in any way. Gaming addiction is a mental health condition that requires prompt professional treatment in order to overcome.