“He will just grow out of his desire to play video games.”
“Video Gaming Addiction is not a thing.”
“Video games are not the problem. He just needs more independence.”
“He’s not addicted to video gaming, he has ADHD.”
These are some of the many statements I hear from parents who have taken their child to a therapist for help with problematic behaviours they believe stem from a video gaming addiction.
I hear similar messages from parents who have also taken their child to their family doctor for assessment and help.
Video Gaming Addiction was just established as a disorder by the World Health Organization in June 2018, so it is considered a relatively new term in the 11th edition of its International Classification of Diseases (ICD). There is still considerable research needed, and there is an enormous need for more therapeutic training for this addiction. But it is definitely a diagnosable condition.
Dealing with this addiction can be a frightening, confusing, frustrating, and extremely isolating time for a family. When they hear their concerns dismissed or shrugged off as not being real, it only sends them further into despair and leaves them feeling a sense of helplessness. Parents need as much support as they can possibly muster at this time.
In my son’s crisis of addiction, he wasn’t diagnosed with Video Gaming Disorder, but our GP did feel he was suffering with extreme Anxiety and Depression. He was able to find my son a therapist immediately, at my urging. I saw gaming as problematic and I forced a cold turkey detox for my son. However, back in 2014, there was even less knowledge about video gaming disorder and my son was able to manipulate his therapist into believing that gaming wasn’t an issue. They even came up with a chart that marked the times my son could schedule in his gaming time when he returned to university. This plan, of course backfired, and the first of many relapses occurred. And I felt terribly alone in my pursuit for getting further help for my son.
In defense of therapists and doctors, there is much still to learn about video gaming addiction. There is also a lack of training and funding for training. And a therapist can only assess based on what their client is sharing with them. Addicts become master manipulators in order to protect their addiction, and unless they want sobriety, they will downplay and lie about how much they game. And unless a therapist has the lens of addiction in their training profile, they may not know what questions to ask and what to look for.
I advise my parents that I coach to ask to be included in family therapy so they have an opportunity to demonstrate how their child’s gaming is damaging to their lives and disruptive to their family. Don’t just send the child into the therapy. Addiction is not just an addict’s problem, it is a family problem. And a diagnosis is not always necessary to still receive good care. Gaming can be considered problematic, and understanding why it has become central to a child’s life, at the detriment to their emotional and physical health, can lead a doctor or therapist to an effective treatment plan.
The statement I hear from every parent is, “It’s so good to finally speak with someone who understands and has been where we are.” This reiterates to me just how little support they have received and what it means to them to finally be validated. I don’t have an addiction therapy certification, so I can’t see their child in any therapeutic measure. However, I have lived experience, and I have completed the world renowned Intenta Clinical Training for Gaming Disorder. I have studied Video Gaming Addiction for the past several years, I have done talks to create awareness, and I have written two books about my experiences. I understand how important it is to recognize the disorder and the havoc it is wreaking in a family’s life. I will not be dismissive. And I look for therapists who are also knowledgeable about this addiction to refer to my coaching clients.
Sometimes, just hearing the words, “I understand” and acknowledging that video gaming is problematic for their child, can provide parents a moment of feeling completely supported.
Here’s the link to the 9 signs of Video Gaming Addiction: https://eyespyhealth.ca/wp-content/uploads/2019/07/9signsvideogameaddiction.pdf