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Best Video Game Addiction Treatment Centers in California

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The World Health Organization (WHO) defines gaming addiction as severely impaired control over gaming, leading to negative consequences in work, school, social, and family life. This can look like prioritizing gaming over other activities and gaming more often, despite negative consequences. It can happen at any age, but is more likely in teens. Online video games allow players to chat and interact in real-time with other gamers across the globe, which can pressure you to be online at the same time as your friends.

Gaming activates (and changes) the same areas of the brain as addictive substances do, which is how gaming can turn into an addiction.

Do Rehabs Treat Gaming Addiction?

Yes, many centers focus specifically on treating behavioral addictions, including gaming. Many rehab centers will also treat co-occurring mental health disorders like depression alongside behavioral addictions. You can attend several levels of treatment for gaming. These include:

  • Outpatient, where you meet once or twice a week with peers and 1-on-1 with your care provider.
  • Intensive outpatient, where you meet 3-5 times a week for several hours or more.
  • Partial hospitalization, where you meet 5-7 times a week for most of the day while still living at home.
  • Residential, where you live in a rehab center for 28+ days, actively engaging in treatment with a community of peers and treatment providers.
  • Inpatient, where you live in a treatment center or hospital and receive 24/7 care and monitoring.

Each level of care will likely involve 1-on-1 and group therapy sessions led by professionals. Therapeutic methods and treatment plans will vary based on your symptoms, medical history, age, and other unique factors. Most programs will offer some forms of evidence-based therapy throughout your treatment.

Joining a peer support group may also be part of your treatment and ongoing recovery. Examples of these groups include Gaming Addicts Anonymous (GAA) and On-Line Gamers Anonymous. These groups offer peer support, encouragement, and a community to connect with.

What Therapies Are Used to Treat Gaming Addiction?

As a recently recognized addiction, little research has shown a path to gaming addiction recovery. However, therapists identify cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) as a primary and effective treatment method. In CBT, you’ll explore the thoughts and emotions that trigger excessive gaming. This can help you learn new ways to find enjoyment, manage stress, and cope with strong emotions—without turning to gaming.

New hobbies and activities also help with gaming addiction. Sports can provide multiple benefits, including better physical and mental health. Playing sports creates a similar environment to online gaming, allowing you to work towards a common goal with a team.

While some antidepressants have also had success in treating gaming addiction, researchers agree a combination of treatment methods offer the most promise.

Psychiatrists and therapists often use a combination of different therapies depending on the unique presentation of your gaming addiction. Psychiatrists can also prescribe medication in addition to therapy, in appropriate cases. Ultimately, treatment aims to help the patient develop healthy coping skills and strategies to manage gaming addiction.

Here are a few strategies you can try to regulate your gaming yourself:

  • Take breaks; set hourly alarms if you have to. A 10-minute break can pull you away long enough to eat, drink, and let your mind consider other activities.
  • Prioritize gaming last. Make sure your health, family, and responsibilities come before gaming.
  • Limit your screen time. Set and stick to a limit for your gaming.
  • Only engage with like-minded gamers. This can help you avoid peer pressure from those who may struggle with gaming addiction themselves.
  • Limit your spending in online games. If you feel compelled to continually buy the newest game features, it’s likely time to take a break.

What Are The Signs And Symptoms of Gaming Addiction?

If you have a gaming addiction or suspect one in someone you love, you may have noticed one or more of the following signs:

  • Compulsive gaming. You may feel compelled to game instead of doing something else, even if you don’t necessarily want to.
  • You end up gaming for much longer than you intended. You may plan to play for an hour but end up playing long after you intended to stop.
  • Gaming takes precedence in other areas of your life, like work, school, in-person friendships, and family. Your physical health and hygiene may decline after neglecting it for too long.
  • You lie to cover up your excessive gaming. You or a loved one may say you’re working on school or work to hide that you’re gaming instead.
  • You neglect the responsibilities and needs of yourself and others. In dire cases, parents addicted to gaming have forgotten to take care of their children. You may also forget to eat, sleep, and bathe.
  • You are unable to change your gaming habits despite the negative consequences. These consequences could include the loss of your job, deteriorated mental health, poor physical health, hurt friendships, and social withdrawal.

Your child, friend, or loved one may overreact or become defensive if you address their gaming habits. They may also seem unduly distressed if you remove their video game console or threaten to take it away. You may also notice they gravitate towards online friendships while neglecting in-person friends, or suddenly seeing socializing as unnecessary.

What Are The Potential Risks of Gaming Addiction?

Anyone who spends time gaming risks developing a gaming addiction. But these are some of the key risk factors:

  • You, or your child, have an isolated social life or are only comfortable or interested in socializing within an online community
  • You play games with continued rewards, levels, and challenges. A simpler, less competitive pass-time, like Minecraft, lacks the (addictive) satisfaction of final bosses to defeat, repeated victories, and team wins.
  • You have strong negative emotions, trauma, or shame you are trying to escape. That’s a completely natural desire. But since gaming addiction can numb those feelings, it puts you at a higher risk.
  • You have excess free time. Gaming may seem like a perfect way to kill time on occasion, but it can spiral into something deeper if you don’t make time for other hobbies or responsibilities.

What Are The Long-Term Effects of Gaming Addiction?

Gaming addiction can do long-term damage to your physical and mental health. In-game purchases can also deplete your finances over time. Gaming addiction can separate you from life beyond your screen, negatively impacting your relationships with family and friends, your ability to take care of responsibilities, and other hobbies.

You also risk medical issues like eye strain, carpal tunnel, malnourishment, and back pain.

Is It Possible to Relapse With Gaming Addiction?

Relapsing with gaming is possible. Seeking professional treatment can help you understand your triggers and treat the root causes of the gaming addiction to prevent future relapses. Most gaming treatment programs offer relapse prevention planning, aftercare, and connections to additional resources, like support groups.

A recurrence doesn’t mean your treatment failed. It just means you need additional help to get your recovery back on track.

Can I Use The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) for Gaming Addiction Treatment in The U.S.?

If you’ve been clinically diagnosed with gaming addiction, then you may be eligible to receive Family and Medical Leave Act support (FMLA). The FMLA ensures that you do not lose your job when taking necessary time away to heal from a serious health condition, for up to 12 weeks. If a professional determines your gaming addiction seriously impacts your life and health, you may qualify. This act also guarantees that you retain the same terms of employment that you originally had prior to your leave.

What’s provided in your FMLA may vary and has requirements for eligibility. You can talk with your doctor, your Human Resources (HR) department, a disability lawyer, or look online for more information on FMLAs.

Questions to Ask Your Provider

Identifying potential questions ahead of time may help you navigate the beginnings of treatment and choose a provider. You can make an appointment with your primary care physician, psychologist, or therapist and ask the following questions for additional clarity.

  1. How would you describe the symptoms I'm experiencing?
  2. What treatments do you recommend for gaming addiction?
  3. What should I expect from treatment?
  4. What kind of side effects can I expect from the medications you prescribe, if any?
  5. What lifestyle changes can I make to help manage my gaming?
  6. Are there any support groups or other resources I can use to help manage my gaming?
  7. What kind of follow-up care do you recommend?
  8. How can I tell if my gaming addiction is getting worse?
  9. What should I do if my symptoms don’t improve?
  10. Do I meet the diagnostic requirements for any co-occurring mental health conditions?

Together, you and your treatment team can create a recovery plan customized to your unique needs and situation.

How Can I Find Support?

FAQs

  • Who can benefit from a gaming addiction treatment center?
    • Anyone struggling with excessive gaming—children, teens, adults, and older adults included.
  • How long does treatment at a gaming addiction treatment center last?
    • Residential treatment for gaming addiction usually lasts 28+ days. Outpatient care ranges from 1-6 months but can go longer if needed.
  • What qualifications should I look for in a gaming addiction center?
    • You should look for a facility that has CARF (Commission on Accreditation of Rehabilitation Facilities) accreditation, LegitScript certification, and is Joint Commission accredited.
  • Can I use insurance to cover the cost of treatment at a gaming addiction treatment center?
    • Insurance coverage will vary by program, so reach out to confirm they’ll accept your insurance before you go.
  • What happens after completing treatment at a gaming addiction treatment center?
    • After treatment for gaming addiction, you can continue outpatient care (therapy and support groups). You can also join Gaming Addicts Anonymous, which has peer support groups worldwide.
  • Are gaming addiction centers only for severe cases?
    • No. Anyone struggling with a gaming addiction is eligible to receive help.
  • Will I have access to ongoing support after completing treatment at a rehab center for gaming?
    • Yes, reputable rehab centers for gaming understand the importance of ongoing support in maintaining long-term recovery. They often provide or arrange aftercare programs, which may include outpatient therapy, support groups, and relapse prevention strategies. These resources are designed to help individuals transition back into their daily lives while continuing to receive the support they need to sustain their progress.
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