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Gaming Overload: Signs and Strategies to Help with Excessive Gaming

In today’s interconnected world, gaming has become more than just a hobby—it’s a lifestyle for many. The allure of immersive virtual worlds, social interactions, and thrilling challenges draws millions of players into the gaming landscape daily. However, as with any form of entertainment, moderation is key.

As a therapist specializing in family digital well-being, I’ve observed the impact of excessive gaming on mental health and overall quality of life. Parents and partners often ask me these three questions to understand the signs of excessive gaming and try to find strategies to help balance gaming habits and routines in their family. 

How do I know when gaming is a problem or excessive?

There is a lot of information we could cover here but the simple answer is when gaming is taking priority over relationships, responsibilities such as work or school, basic functioning such as eating and sleeping, or other hobbies. Often gaming happens late at night which makes tasks and responsibilities more difficult the next day, so there are a variety of ways it can get in the way of functioning and responsibilities. If someone is unable to reduce or stop gaming when they try, that is a clear indication gaming is on the pathway to becoming excessive and causing problems with physical and mental health.

How do I start a conversation about excessive gaming?

Start by asking questions to more fully understand how your loved one is using gaming in their daily routine. Once they tell you the details of their routine use you can ask if they think it is getting in the way of other interests, friends/relationships, or responsibilities. They may already be aware they are gaming excessively and want to make changes. If they are unaware then you can ask what behaviors do they think would let them know they are excessively gaming. If they start to do these behaviors in the future you can remind them of their concerns about excessive gaming from the previous conversation. For children, parental controls and gaming time limits might be needed to help teach and monitor gaming limits while their brain is still developing regulation skills and time management.

How do we make changes to our family gaming routines?

Start with discovering what psychological needs gaming is meeting for your loved one and what role it is playing in their life. Is it easier to socialize through games or do they feel successful as they reach the next game level? Whatever psychological needs gaming is meeting for them, look for ways this need can be met in the physical world. Start to encourage adding in new interests or more time connecting with friends and family in their daily routines. As they spend more time in other activities they naturally have less time to spend on gaming. It is much easier to add something to routines than to try to solely focus on taking something away.

Written by: Jennifer Wilmoth, LMFT

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