Are you struggling with a gaming addiction?
If so, you’re certainly not alone.
These days, millions upon millions of people spend way too much time lost in games. Virtual worlds created by game designers at every level of sophistication. Yes, hooked on artificial lives in everything from World of Warcraft to Candy Crush….
And the worst part?
Many of these people are quite cognizant of the problem. And of the havoc it wreaks on their lives and work.
Yet they still can’t bring themselves to stop.
Sound familiar? No surprise there…
Levels of Gaming Addiction Have Reached All-Time Highs.
In fact, out of 10,000 people who took the LevelSkip quiz below, a whopping 26% admitted to spending more than 40 hours a week playing video games.
Yes, 40 hours a week!
(Have a look for yourself.)
Of course, in a “normal” world, that number would be cause for HUGE concern.
Unfortunately, many of us have been there and done it ourselves. And aren’t surprised in the slightest.
But What Does Having a Bonafide Gaming Addiction Actually Look Like?
Well, here’s how Computer Game Addicts Anonymous (the name says it all) describes a gaming addiction:
“Having an obsession and compulsion to game, which grows worse over time, and an inability to limit our gaming, despite all the trouble and losses it causes.”
By the way, we’re not just talking about computer games here, either.
Those little games on your smartphone and tablet can seem like harmless little ways to pass the time when you’ve got nothing better to do.
But it all adds up and stokes the fire.
These trivial “pastimes” can eat up countless hours and become just as addicting as more sophisticated gaming technologies.
Here are Four Possible Signs You’re Gaming Too Much:
- You Neglect Real World Responsibilities: Have you been getting up late for work or missing classes as a result of late-night gaming sessions? Have you ruined relationships, broken promises, and let family and friends down? You’re putting gaming first. And being unable to make your responsibilities a priority is a problem, especially if you’re serious about your current goals.
- You Neglect Your Real World Appearance: Are you forgetting to shower? Did you wear the same dirty shirt all weekend? Do you go to bed smelling a little funky because, well, you’re not going to see anyone anyways? Being hooked to a screen often makes you put off the most basic things in life, like simply tending to your personal hygiene.
- You Neglect Real World Health: Lack of sleep, sore back, sore eyes, poor food choices, anxiety, or weight gain can all be by-products of too much gaming. At FocusMe we hear from new customers all the time who tell us they often forgot to eat because of their gaming habits (before they found our blocking software). Some end up living on fast food just because they can’t pull themselves out of the house to shop for the real thing.
- You Neglect Real World Finances: The financial impact of gaming too much can hit on multiple levels. First off, if you’re choosing to buy videos games, gaming computers, or video game accessories when you can’t really afford it – even over the basic necessities – then you may have an addiction. Making life-altering financial decisions to satisfy your “hobby” is a good sign your priorities are way out of whack. But gamers often get way behind on work because of their digital addiction too, and that can add up to untold amounts of money lost to opportunity cost.
So Video Game Addiction Comes With Very Real Life Consequences
As we can see, playing too many hours of video games isn’t just a harmless bad habit.
Overplaying has a seriously negative effect on your relationships and work/life balance.
Here are some other long-lasting quality of life problems you may experience when you play too many video games:
Of course, these are just some of the symptoms of playing too many video games. So keep in mind that not everyone’s addiction manifests in exactly the same way.
Note: Read more about How Violence in Video Games is Affecting Your Mental Health in our bonus material here.
Our Step-By-Step Guide on How to Stop Gaming Now
If you’re reading this article, you probably don’t need to be told that things have gotten out of hand.
You probably have gone way beyond a feeling that something isn’t healthy about the time you spend gaming. And have tried your best to practice a little “willpower” only to crash and burn again and again.
Leaving you feeling stuck, helpless, insecure, and depressed.
Much like with digital addiction or chronic procrastination, it can feel like all hope is lost, but we assure you it is not!
Here’s a step-by-step guide to help you kick this addiction and implement a new, healthier routine in your life.
How to Stop Gaming Step #1:
Recognize and Admit Your Video Game Addiction
You’re here, so you’ve already accomplished a huge first step towards bringing balance back to your life.
That first step is self awareness and self honesty.
And so you’re already much more likely to beat your video game addiction than someone who is living in denial.
So give yourself a pat on the back for this one!
But here’s what you don’t want to do.
Don’t internalize the problem by constantly telling yourself, “I’m a video game addict” and beating yourself up about the ways you’ve behaved in the past.
Doing this just makes you feel more down (negative feelings often lead to more escapism).
And taking on “addict” as a self identity label gives you an “out” every time the going gets tough (i.e. I’m an “addict,” so I can’t control myself. Might as well not try.)
Most addictions in this vein really just come down to a mixture of impulsiveness (prone to value short term pleasures over long-term ones) and low frustration tolerance (prone to avoidance of discomfort, boredom, pain, etc).
These are personality traits that CAN be controlled and changed.
You CAN build better habits that get you where you want to go in life.
You DON’T have to internalize an addict identity to demand more of yourself.
But you DO need to be honest and upfront with yourself and anyone else in your life that the pattern of behavior has gotten out of control and that you’re determined to change.
To reiterate, the first step towards that determination is self-honesty.
How to Stop Gaming Step #2:
Draw on Proven Research and Support
Many of the principles of gaming addiction share a lot in common with other addictions, especially those digital in nature.
But it can help to start your research on how to stop gaming by understanding this specific type of self-destructive behavior better.
There are also a lot of ideas out there to try that may not fall within the scope of this article today.
Here’s a list of gaming addiction resources you may find helpful:
- Escaping video game addiction: Cam Adair at TEDxBoulder: Listening to someone else’s story on how they escaped their video game addiction can give you the inspiration and courage to do the same.
- Computer Gaming Addicts Anonymous: A support group with a lot of great resources, including a team meeting schedule to help you get on the right track.
- Vice: How Video Game Addiction Can Destroy Your Life: A look into the darker side of video game addiction to give you some additional perspective on the extent of its damaging effects.
- Psychology Today: Why Johnny Can’t Stop Playing Video Games: A psychologist’s perspective on video game addiction and how to break it.
- Greenfield Video Game Addiction Test: Take this quiz to gain more insight into the nature of your own addiction.
How to Stop Gaming Step #3:
Try to Understand the True Source of Your Own Gaming Addiction
We all do things for our own personal reasons. No matter how unconscious those reasons might be.
And often the most crucial step in moderating our habits is being aware of the true source of our own actions first (there’s not really a one-size-fits-all cause for things like impulsive gaming and procrastination).
So ask yourself why you specifically like to game so much.
This may take a bit of soul searching and more of that brutal self-honesty. But doing so may reveal an intuitive way to solve your problem almost immediately.
Does gaming stimulate your core need to think and behave creatively?
There’s certainly nothing wrong with creativity, but you might be able to break away from the games more by mixing things up. Try finding another creative outlet that involves movement or nature.
This may include drawing, dancing, singing, writing, or even just walking a lot and taking in the world.
What is something you loved doing when you were a kid?
If you’ve been addicted to games for a while, you may find these activities more bland at first than they used to be. Especially in comparison to your favorite games.
But the interesting thing about nearly all creative activities is that they get more fascinating and fun the more you do them.
Keep at it past the initial learning curve. Suffer the pain of the first few days of digging into a new type of creative project and watch how it suddenly connects emotionally and takes you away into a whole new rabbit hole.
Are you often just bored and needing a way to fill the “hole”?
Instead of gaming, try going for a walk and sitting in the park for a while.
Go people watching or observe nature, and see if you can get lost in it the same way you do in video games.
Take up martial arts, surfing, or woodworking.
Books are another great time filler that leaves you with something you may be missing in your games – knowledge. Just keep in mind that if you’ve been overindulging in games and social media for a while, it may take a week or two to retrain your brain again for the pleasures of in-depth reading.
Finally, sometimes it may be a good idea to “learn how to be bored” again.
In modern society, we’ve lost the magical ability to just sit and think. Often our greatest ideas come in our moments of downtime.
And often if you just force some uncomfortable boredom on yourself for a while, you’ll find it much easier to get motivated for other non-gaming activities you’ve been putting off.
Are you feeling lonely?
Feeling lonely is an emotion we all experience, especially if you live in a first world Western country where individualism has been put on a pedestal.
Of course, hiding yourself in games doesn’t make you LESS lonely.
Because while games are good for distracting yourself, they don’t offer true social interaction, even if you’re interacting with other players.
And when the game gets turned off, your social life has deteriorated more than ever…
Filling a hole of loneliness with anything is a recipe for addiction.
Instead, maybe it’s time to fill it with people.
If your relationships with other humans leave something to desire, it may be time to take a few risks and get in the game again.
- Go visit some friends.
- Pick up the phone and catch up with someone you haven’t talked to in a while.
- Try putting on a weekly dinner party or invite a friend to go out for coffee or a drink.
- Join a club or just attend some special interest events.
- Start “practicing” the art of striking up conversations with strangers (this can become a fun game in itself).
If the loneliness has really caught hold and begun to impact your self esteem and quality of life, consider speaking to a counselor or therapist to work through this transition.
Therapists can be invaluable even if all you need is another human to listen.
Is your gaming an escape from something deeper?
A sense of meaninglessness? Scars from the past and an avoidance of emotional wounds that need to be addressed?
Lingering fears, anxiety, doubts about yourself?
Maybe you need to do some soul searching and find a purpose (or at least temporary positive focus for your life).
Or perhaps you have something else you’re avoiding that could be filled with soul searching, therapy, or training of some kind.
Only YOU can discover the true answers to these questions…
But it is imperative that you ask them.
You never will get around to it if you don’t conjure the courage to turn off the games first.
So turn them off and see what bubbles to the top…
How to Stop Gaming Step #4:
Write Down Your Goals on Paper and Commit
Now that you have a better understanding of WHY you get lost in video games, you’re better prepared to decide where you want to go next.
Because believe it or not, you may not (necessarily) have to give up gaming altogether.
Look, I know how that sounds.
But in our work with users of our digital distraction-busting app, we’ve seen plenty people take on the fight and pull through.
If you want more actual proof that many addictive behaviors can be managed and tamed rather than fled from, check out this great read here:
It starts by getting clear what you DO want.
Get out a piece of paper and write down why you’re trying to decrease your gaming time (friends, family, health, etc.).
And add a few of the solutions you want to try.
This will help reduce your urge to game by reminding you why you’re trying to kick your habit in the first place. Keep it on hand to look at whenever you feel doubts.
You should also take this time to set other goals in your life. Cutting back or quitting games is a lot easier if you choose something more positive to focus on.
None of this is going to be totally easy.
Kicking or controlling your habit can feel overwhelming, especially if video gaming is an integral part of your daily routine.
But you CAN…
You CAN still find a way back to a relationship with your computer or phone that benefits, not undermines, the rest of your life.
You CAN attack the emotions that cause you to overplay at their core.
Or even set up the environment around you to make playing games much more inconvenient…
How to Stop Gaming Step #5:
Discover Digital Tools to Help You Stay Focused on Your Goal to Control Digital Addiction
If there’s chocolate lying around the house, then you’re probably going to want to take a bite…
If you suffer from problem drinking, a fridge full of beer will probably lead to late nights…
The same principle holds true for gaming.
But FocusMe has some powerful tools that can help you to stay committed and stay focused on the most important task at hand.
A few examples of how our software can help:
If studying or work requires you to use your computer, clicking on your favorite gaming website is almost automatic. Try our website or application blocker to prevent a slip-up.
If you want to decrease your gaming time, try using our application to alert you when you’ve been gaming for more than 30 minutes. Then take a break, walk around, and give your body a chance to stretch.
If you want to go nuclear, use our powerful force mode to lock yourself out of specfici websites, games, and apps completely – with varying levels of protection from your own irrationality.
Note: You don’t necessarily need our program to do this…
On a no-tech/low-tech level, you can lock up your xbox or gaming computer in the garage or attic.
And you could always create rules for yourself and turn the computer off.
Of course, you can always go out and get it if you really want to…
But putting even a small obstacle in your own way is often enough to make you stop, think, and decide better.
In any case, we can all agree that having a tool that blocks you from your own distractions can be priceless for quitting or cutting back…
And our digital solution cuts off the problem at it’s root!
How to Stop Gaming Step #6:
See Each Attempt to Curb Digital Addiction as a “Hypothesis.”
As mentioned before, no digital addiction occurs for the same reasons. And many people may be repeatedly led astray from a combination of causes.
So it’s probably going to take some setbacks before you completely master this part of your life.
But even if you lose hold of your self control after two weeks of better behavior, isn’t that still much better than not having cut back at all?
The point is that a temporary failure is no reason to bash yourself and not get up.
Try a new method. Tweak your “plan” a tad. Or just climb back on accept that you’ve already shown massive improvement.
Each shot at your bad habits is a chance for a new and improved hypothesis to a better future.
Has gaming become a negative force in your life?
Sure, gaming isn’t all bad.
It can be a fun and creative way to pass the time and work your brain…
If it’s taking over the balance of your life, however, then it’s time to consider some serious changes.
Reach out to your friends and family, and inform them of the lifestyle change you’re trying to implement so that you can receive support.
Note: if you have a serious gaming problem, to the point where you are a danger to yourself, please seek professional help.
We all need help sometimes; that’s the nature of being human in the real world.
Want to read more on this topic?
Check out the bonus material, How Violence in Video Games is Affecting Your Mental Health, here.
Or Consider Using FocusMe’s “Blocking” Software to Limit Digital Addictions of All Kinds.
FocusMe is our famous productivity app for blocking out distractions and beating procrastination.
A lot of users also turn to it to finally win the battle with addiction to games, porn, or online gambling.
In fact, founder Jon Rumens first created the software to rein in his own out-of-control gaming habits and defeat procrastination so he could save his career and change his life.
So you could say we know where you’re coming from on this one…
Learn more about the app here: