- Several health establishments reported an increase in gaming addiction cases
- Most of them attribute it to the pandemic and homeschooling
- Spokespeople discussed the topic and provided their suggestions
The pandemic has ushered in an age of mass gaming addiction, according to UK clinics.
A Steep Rise in Gaming Addiction Cases
As the COVID-19 pandemic bound people to their homes, a lot didn’t have anything to do and turned to the game. Some were already gamers, to begin with. Others just picked up the hobby. However, this rise in gaming’s popularity also had some negative effects and has led to numerous cases of gaming addiction.
In 2019 a gaming addiction clinic opened in the United Kingdom in the wake of the World Health Organization labeling severe gaming addiction or “gaming disorder” as a medical condition. The clinic has now reported a three-time increase in people seeking help and attributes it to the pandemic.
According to reports from the Guardian, 56 people sought the clinic’s help between January and May 2021 compared to only 17 for 2020.
This seems to be a pattern as Nightingale hospital, a medical establishment for the treatment of mental health issues also reported an increase of gaming addicts seeking help. Nightingale reports numbers to have doubled in 2020 and quadrupled in 2021, with a majority being parents looking to help their children.
Nightingale’s lead addictions therapist Patrick Maxwell agrees with the observation that the pandemic is the cause of many of the cases. He explained that homeschooling and the quarantine led people, and especially children, to spend more time before a screen.
“Because they were at home, parents’ awareness of how much screen time their child was using increased, so I think that provoked anxiety within the parents through their observations of their children,” Maxwell explained.
Gaming Addiction Sometimes Undermined Patients’ Relationships
The Royal College of Psychiatrists’ lead on gaming addictions, Dr. Henrietta Bowden-Jones is yet another person who affirms the fact: the pandemic DID increase cases of gaming addiction. She explained:
“Many of our young patients reported the loss of structure caused them to game for longer hours and more compulsively, to the detriment of other interests and activities including family time.”
Bowden-Jones added that some patients’ familial relationships suffered from that and, in some cases, led to acts of anger and even physical aggression.
“The last year has brought far more patients into treatment than we had expected, and we now need to review how we will support both parents and children in such large numbers,” she concluded.
Lastly, Dr. Linda Papadopolous, Internet Matters’ internet safety ambassador, commented on the topic. According to her, people started seeing the internet as a means to socialize. Papadopolous believes the situation isn’t black and white, and there is merit to communicating online during the pandemic. However, she also recognizes the dangers of prolonged gaming and stays on a PC or console.
“While the data is worrying, there are some key signs parents should look out for to help their children find a healthy balance before gaming turns into a problem. Some children might begin to show a lack of interest in their usual hobbies, spend less time with real-life friends, and their schoolwork might start to suffer. Complaining of headaches and problems with sleep can also be symptoms,” the internet safety ambassador explained.
Papadopolous concluded by advising parents to teach their kids responsibility from a young age and speak with them about any arising issues.
While a great hobby, gaming can really harm people who don’t have a personal sense of moderation. Unrestrained gaming may often come at the expense of relationships, school, or work. The best solution is for people to be careful and mindful of their own health. If they can’t do so by themselves, they can always seek professional help.