By Amy Reast
Kids as young as eight are getting support for gaming addiction, which could be a sign of undiagnosed mental health issues, an expert has warned.
Nuno Albuquerque from UK Addiction Treatment says children who can’t pull themselves away from games like Minecraft may have “underlying” depression, anxiety and ADHD.
The addiction recovery support service Rehabs UK revealed more people are now seeking help for gaming addiction than for crack cocaine addiction online.
The most addictive games are Minecraft, Fortnite, Candy Crush and League of Legends, the report says.
Nuno said: “[Children] will often become addicted because they use the game as a form of escapism, and it is a coping mechanism for something. But then they can end up with two problems — they still have the mental health problems, but then they also have a gaming addiction.”
Nuno, the rehab group’s head of treatment, said he had seen an increase in the number of parents complaining about their children’s addiction to video games in the latter half of last year.
He said of the increase in parents reaching out to UKAT for support for their children: “It’s most often been for children aged eight or nine up to their mid-teenage years. Sometimes the parents complain whenever they’re out with their child, the child is asking how soon they can leave, to go back home and play.”
Nuno said the issue with gaming addictions in youngsters is not necessarily the length of time spent playing but the “underlying causes.”
“Gaming can make them feel better but it doesn’t take away the underlying causes — the things that make the games attractive in the first place,” he said. “It’s not surprising we see gaming addictions in people who are so young because mental health conditions can start from an early age. But perhaps at that age, they haven’t yet been diagnosed.”
“We do have clients in their early 20s struggling with gaming addictions — all of those had been diagnosed with some kind of mental health condition in their teenage years,” he said.
Nuno said it’s not all bad — and in some cases, the games can be “very productive and supportive” for children as a way to connect with others.
However, “people, even young people, can put on masks. They can look like a happy and healthy child but if they develop an addiction, there is an underlying cause,” he said. “Not everyone gets an addiction to gaming, so if they do, their ‘happiness’ you see may not be genuine. I believe there is always an underlying factor when it comes to addiction.”
Often, we feel parents come in and see the child as the problem, but it can be the whole family dynamic.
“Perhaps they have a fear they aren’t being heard in the family, or they aren’t spending enough time together — and so the child enjoys isolating themselves gaming to get that feel-good feeling.”
Nuno also warned gaming could be “their first drug of choice” and a sign of worse to come — if they don’t get the mental health support they need.
Produced in association with SWNS Talker.
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