As new university students are beginning their first year, the habits of their childhood could have serious impacts on their studies and social life; namely gaming. Unhealthy gaming habits are becoming more prevalent in students to the extent that the World Health Organization has classed gaming addiction as a disorder. While playing games can improve hand-eye coordination, excessive gaming, or internet gaming disorder (IGD) can severely affect your physical and mental health and ultimately impact your studies.
With this in mind, cyber security experts at VPNOverview have identified the warning signs, consequences, and the best ways to deal with gaming addiction. Acknowledging the warning signs of gaming addiction early can prevent any physical or mental symptoms from worsening over time.
What is video game addiction?
Video games are designed to be addictive. They immerse the player with realistic graphics, compelling sound effects, engaging storylines, and haptic feedback. The possibility that a person can become addicted to video games has been a debate for many years.
The American Psychiatric Association acknowledges that games trigger specific neurological pathways that stimulate pleasure and reward. In extreme cases, playing video games affects the brain in much the same way as alcohol, drugs, and gambling.
This being said, there is a big difference between excessive gaming and video game addiction. It’s important not to panic that you are becoming addicted to gaming unless particular symptoms develop over a long period.
If you feel as though you have demonstrated these three symptoms for at least 12 months, video game addiction may be present:
- Impaired control over gaming: The inability to control the urge to play a video game
- Increased priority is given to gaming: Gaming takes precedence over any other interest or daily activity
- Continuation or escalation of gaming (despite harmful consequences to academic performance, work, social relationships, or health)
What are the warning signs of video game addiction?
According to The American Psychological Association, video game addiction is built on the need to spend more time gaming games.
Withdrawal symptoms are a warning sign of video game addiction. When depriving yourself suddenly of the possibility of playing video games, even for a short amount of time, sadness, irritability, and anxiety are typical withdrawal symptoms.
In addition to these symptoms, less obvious clues may include:
- Forgoing basic needs such as eating, sleeping, and taking care of personal hygiene
- Loss of interest in other activities, social life, hobbies, and friends
- Performing poorly at university due to an inability to focus
- Lying to family/housemates about the time spent gaming
- Ignoring problems caused by video games
What are the consequences of video game addiction?
In 2020, the most extensive study ever conducted on teenage video game addiction, examining trajectories of pathological video game symptoms over six years, found that 10% of the group of adolescents studied showed physical and mental signs that got worse over time because of playing video games.
Physical effects of gaming addiction
Below are the associated physical risks associated with gaming addiction. These can all be worsened by excessive drinking, poor diet, and lack of sleep typical in university students:
- Lowered immune function due to chronic stress
- Sedentary lifestyle; lack of physical exercise, weight gain, poor posture, and a higher risk of type two diabetes
- Seizures from exposure to flickering graphics and lights
- Insomnia and chronic fatigue
- Poor personal hygiene
- Repetitive stress injuries in wrists or hands, including Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
- Disrupted eating habits
- Myopia and other eye conditions
- Disrupted sleep
Mental effects of gaming addiction
Video game addiction does not only affect a person’s emotions but also their nervous system. Increased levels of cortisol, also known as the stress hormone, are produced in gamers because of constant overstimulation and hyperarousal. This can cause chronic stress and can lead to the following:
- Lack of concentration
- Difficulty managing impulses
- Hostility and aggression
- Lack of social engagement
- Decreased levels of creativity and passion
How to deal with video game addiction?
It is important for students to manage their gaming time effectively, as the compulsion to play can overshadow the heavy workloads that many students face. Below is a list of things you can do to manage unhealthy gaming habits:
- Complete your assignments first – Studies have shown that student gamers spend 30% less time reading and 34% less time on coursework. It is essential that gamers set up a healthy routine that only allows game time once they have completed the necessary work, almost like rewarding yourself.
- Get exercise– Exercise is very beneficial when reducing stress and improving sleep quality. Keeping active can come in the form of a sociable team sport that will keep you active whilst allowing you to make new friends.
- Don’t lose sleep – Studies have shown that 24% of adolescents are gaming past 9 pm. Gaming late into the night has been associated with higher levels of daytime sleepiness and an increase in the time it takes to fall asleep, particularly if games are violent. Sleep deprivation can cause a decline in memory and concentration levels, a big problem for students trying to absorb information, take exams and write essays.
- Don’t spend too much time alone in your room gaming – Isolating yourself will only inhibit forming relationships and friendships with the people around you. Social interactions and making friends are imperative to the university experience as you are building a support network to help you through stressful times. Keeping your game in a communal space will encourage more socialising and stop you from appearing unapproachable and isolated.
An expert from VPNOverview commented on the study:
“While gaming addiction is rare, excessive gaming is widespread and can negatively affect a student’s mental and physical health. Factors such as loneliness, anxiety, and stress worsen unhealthy gaming habits.
Students who are perhaps shy and less likely to engage in typical university social events are more likely to develop unhealthy gaming habits. Putting yourself out there and being sociable will help you to form relationships and make the university experience more enjoyable. Reducing the amount of time spent gaming will also have a positive impact on university grades.”
VPNOverview.com are a dedicated team of cybersecurity and privacy professionals offering guidance on these topics in the most accessible way possible.