Is Gaming Addiction the Same as Gambling?

Is Gaming Addiction the Same as Gambling?

Three-quarters of Americans now play video games — yes, including people over 60 years old. Most game responsibly, however. To the majority of people, gaming is a fun hobby and a relaxing way to wind down or even an activity where they meet up with friends. However, around three percent of gamers get sucked in so deeply that video games take over their lives. These gamers may meet the diagnostic criteria for internet gaming disorder. More commonly known simply as gaming addiction, this disorder indicates that the sufferer has lost all control. Is a gaming addiction the same as a gambling addiction, you ask? Read on to discover what these addictions have in common — and how they differ.

Is Gaming Addiction the Same as Gambling?

Substance vs Behavioral Addictions

Addictions can broadly be divided into two distinct groups — substance addictions and behavioral addictions.

  • In substance addictions (including alcoholism and drug abuse), sufferers become physically dependent on the presence of the substance. They experience withdrawal symptoms when they attempt to stop using.
  • Behavioral addictions are addictions to certain behaviors. Gambling, shopping, pornography, exercising, plastic surgery, and sex addictions are among the more well-known examples. These behaviors activate a dopamine response that makes the addict feel rewarded, and sufferers feel empty when they can’t get their fix.

Gambling addictions and gaming addictions are the same in that they are both behavioral addictions.

Gaming vs Gambling Addiction: The Symptoms

Because gambling and gaming addictions are both behavioral in nature, they share nearly identical symptoms. Both addiction to video games and gambling are marked by:

  • Being unable to stop the behavior, despite trying.
  • Constantly being preoccupied with the behavior — not being excited about much else, and feeling anxious when the addict cannot engage in the addictive behavior.
  • Gambling/gaming addiction has a great impact on the sufferer’s social life, professional life, and academic achievements. Their addiction comes first.
  • The sufferer craves more and more extreme experiences to feel satisfied.

Gambling and gaming addictions can both have dire financial consequences, too, but the reasons why differ. Gamblers stake money while they engage in the behavior they are addicted to. That may also be the case with addicted gamers (whether they spend extraordinary amounts of money on new games or micro-transactions within games). However, people with gaming addiction are more likely to lose financially because they spend so much time gaming that they neglect their work.

It is also good to remember that gaming and gambling addictions can go hand in hand when the addict has developed an online casino habit.

Gaming Addiction: Is There a Way Out?

Addiction is notorious for being a disease with a very high relapse rate. Reaching remission (overcoming the addiction) is hard. Patients with behavioral addictions often require extensive therapy and support. Once they are living a life free from addiction, they may need help reconnecting with family and friends and cleaning up their financial situations. In other words, willpower alone usually isn’t enough to break free from addiction.

However, gamers who have noticed that video games now play a much bigger role in their life than they’d like may not meet the diagnostic criteria for internet gaming disorder (yet). These intensive gamers have waded into dangerous waters, but there’s a chance that they can treat their video game addiction without professional support.

Steps that stop gamers who are losing control from developing a full-blown gaming addiction include:

  • Prioritizing the non-gaming aspects of their lives by making a conscious decision to increase the amount of time spent with friends and relatives, pursuing real-life hobbies, focusing on school or work, and engaging in regular physical exercise.
  • Setting strict time limits on gaming or committing to gaming only when daily responsibilities are completed.
  • Building self-esteem. Gamers who feel down a lot should strongly consider being assessed for depression as well.

In these cases, discovering a richer life outside of gaming may naturally cure the habit. Gaming won’t play an unhealthy role in your life if you know an exciting and rewarding world is waiting for you.

Counseling for Gaming Addiction

When a full-blown gaming addiction has set in, therapy is sometimes the only way for the addict to find peace and work toward a life where they’re in charge. Even after treatment for gaming addiction, recovering addicts have to make a commitment to steps that prevent them from falling back in.

Additional Reading: Spending Money in Free-to-Play Games: Sociodemographic Characteristics, Motives, Impulsivity, and Internet Gaming Disorder Specificities

Beware of Gambling in Video Games

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I, Carly Spring, M.S., LIMHP, LADC, CPC, offer my specialized expertise to assist in the healing process to anyone who may be experiencing and suffering from a vast spectrum of mental health issues. Such mental health issues include behavioral problems, anxiety, depression, grief, loss, trauma, addiction issues, and life transitions. I believe strongly in applying a holistic perspective addressing your whole person not just the bits and pieces of you. Contact us with any questions or to discuss substance abuse/addiction services in Omaha today.