Gaming rehab

How can you tell if your interest in computer gaming and virtual worlds is healthy or not? You may have some concerns that games are taking over. You might be worried that you are spending more time gaming than not, or thinking about gaming while you are trying to do other things. It is important to be able to tell the difference between a healthy hobby and an addiction to gaming.

What is gaming addiction?

You may feel like your relationship with gaming is absolutely fine – everyone you know plays computer games: it is normal and harmless fun. Most of the time this is correct. Perhaps people close to you have raised concerns over how much time you spend gaming, or you might have noticed that you are spending less time doing things that were once important to you. Perhaps you choose to game rather than address real-life issues that need dealing with? Games can be very addictive. This is because they are designed to be addictive. The alternative world that they offer is often much more tempting than real life. Games like Fortnite and World of Warcraft offer an alternate reality where you feel more powerful. Your world is more beautifully constructed, and the rules feel clear and straightforward. Who wouldn’t prefer that to the uncertainty and complexity of our modern lives and everything we struggle with?

Games provide a sense of pleasure, which stimulates the reward pathway of your brain via a dopamine release. You may find that in order to achieve that same release of dopamine, you need to play for longer and longer, or achieve more and more, reach higher levels, etc. to get that same buzz. That is the nature of addiction, and it can be very challenging to overcome.

Why rehab for gaming addiction?

It can be very challenging to overcome a gaming addiction when you are at home with all the usual stress and difficulty of day-to-day life. This can make it tempting to want to return to your online or gaming world, where things feel easier and more manageable. Rehab can offer a space away from your usual problems and stresses and can provide all the support you need to overcome your addiction.

Possible side effects of gaming addiction

  • Lack of self-care or interest in other hobbies or interests
  • Restlessness or irritability when not playing games
  • Resentment of people or situations that prevent you from playing games
  • Thinking about playing games when trying to do other things
  • Lying to people close to you about how much time you spend gaming
  • Insomnia
  • Migraines/headaches
  • Carpal tunnel/hand or wrist pain
  • Using money designated for other things on microtransactions in games (in-game purchases)

Recognising gaming addiction

If you identify with some of the side effects above and are starting to worry about your relationship with gaming, you might want to think about reaching out for help. The longer an addiction goes on, the more challenging it can be to treat, so it is important to get help as soon as you start to notice the signs. If you feel like gaming is beginning to take over, or other activities in your life feel dull or frustrating in comparison to gaming, it is time to seek help. Mobile games, computer games, consoles and virtual worlds should be a form of entertainment, not a way to escape your life or avoid difficult feelings.

Getting help for gaming addiction

It is important to start by speaking to your GP. Your GP will be able to help you to clarify your worries and talk through the effects of your gaming addiction. They will be able to identify whether you will do well with a specialist counsellor who is trained to work with addictions, or if you would be better off attending a rehab unit where you can receive more specialist and focused support. Organisations like Turning Point offer low-cost rehab services, and there are private organisations that can offer a more comprehensive service.

What does rehab for gaming involve?

When you first arrive at rehab, staff will help you to feel comfortable and explain what your stay will involve. There will be an admissions process, which will give you an opportunity to ask questions, and will allow rehab staff to find out more about you and your addiction. They will put in place a support plan to take you through your stay. This will include a range of psychological and holistic therapies aimed at helping you to understand the underlying reasons for your addiction and to help you to learn new coping strategies. You will learn about the nature of addiction and how addictions can form when we do not have healthy coping mechanisms for stress and difficult feelings. Gaming addiction, like any other addiction, can happen when you do not know how to cope with aspects of your life, and rehab is an opportunity to discover areas where you need more work and support. It is important to make sure that any rehab service you use offers a good package of aftercare, since the most challenging part of your journey starts when you leave rehab and need to put your new techniques and learning into action in the outside world.

How long does rehab for gaming last?

Rehab for gaming addiction can vary in length, but the optimum amount of rehab advised is eight to twelve weeks. It is advisable to find a treatment service that can offer a lengthier stay so that you have the highest chance possible of achieving successful results and overcoming your addiction for good.

Rehab options for gaming addiction

Rehab can be accessed on the NHS or through private treatment centres. It is also possible to undergo rehab as an inpatient or to stay at home and access treatment as an outpatient. Let’s examine the different options to find out what best suits your circumstances.

Inpatient vs Outpatient

Outpatient rehab services allow you to access rehab treatment from home. This option might be preferable for people who have responsibilities and requirements at home that they cannot leave. It may also be a lower-cost option in some cases. However, it cannot offer the same level of therapeutic input as an inpatient service. If you are serious about treating your addiction, inpatient services can offer round-the-clock care and a full programme of therapeutic activities to assist in your treatment. Whilst outpatient rehab can offer daily appointments, it cannot offer a structured daily timetable of holistic therapies and psychological therapies to assist in your growth and development.

Private vs NHS

You may be able to have part or all of your treatment for computer game addiction covered by your health insurance company. It is worth checking with them before you make your decision. You can access rehab on the NHS; however, the waiting lists tend to be very long as the demand outweighs the number of rehab services available on the NHS. If you feel that you cannot wait that long, or that the addiction is getting worse and adversely affecting your life, you may wish to explore alternatives such as charitable options (e.g. Turning Point) or private organisations that can offer a much more comprehensive service, usually with very short waiting periods. Some private rehab services offer a twenty-four-hour or forty-eight-hour turnaround time for new referrals, so it is worth looking around. The costs for private rehab can be broken down into a payment plan.

What does offer for gaming rehab?

Rehab is an opportunity to reflect and develop new skills to cope with life’s difficulties. All centres offer a range of psychotherapeutic sessions and holistic therapies in a comprehensive programme aimed at treating the whole self and rebuilding from within. It can be very daunting to access inpatient treatment, but our staff will make you feel welcome as soon as you step into the centre. All staff are aware of how difficult it is to make that first step to seek help, and your journey will be treated with care and support.

Psychotherapy offered at UKAT treatment centres is aimed at helping you to discover the underlying difficulties which may lie at the root of your addiction to gaming. You will receive expert support in recognising triggers and unconscious reasons behind your addiction. You will learn new coping skills, in alliance with holistic therapy support. Meditation can help to calm your mind and strengthen the neural pathways associated with psychological flexibility and resilience. You will be better able to observe difficult feelings within yourself, without being absorbed by those feelings and overwhelmed. This is an essential component of recovering from addiction. Creative therapies will give you new ideas for how to express your feelings. You will also have the ability to connect with other people who are also struggling with addiction, to provide support to others and be heard by people who really understand what you are going through.

Gaming rehab aftercare

If you are accessing free addiction treatment services through NHS facilities, check to make sure that they offer an aftercare package to help you in your transition back to life at home after your treatment. Your hard work at rehab can be undone without the right kind of support. You can also do a self-referral to charitable organisations, such as Turning Point, who may also offer an aftercare package. Bear in mind that these kinds of organisations can also be subject to lengthy waiting lists to access their rehab programmes.

How to help someone with a gaming addiction

If you believe that you or someone you care about might be struggling with an addiction to computer games such as Fortnite, PUBG, League of Legends or World of Warcraft, you can start by sharing your concerns. They might be relieved to hear that help is available and to recognise that they are struggling. Often when people are in the throes of addiction, they can be unaware of the damage they are causing to their lives or the lives of people closest to them. They might need support to accept that they need help. You can help them to recognise the signs and symptoms of gaming addiction and where they can access appropriate support.

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