How do I know if I have a serious problem with electronic and online games? I'll admit I'm an avid player. I go straight to the computer every night after work and spend the rest of the evening there. It's a way to rest and relax after a hard day on the job. The only problem is that I'm also a married man and a father, and my wife is beginning to complain. She told me the other day that she thinks I'm addicted to gaming. Is that even possible?
Many people consider addiction to be related exclusively to substances like drugs or alcohol. But in reality addiction can involve anything that becomes such a priority to a person that he or she is willing to neglect friends, family, faith, responsibilities and even their physical health in order to pursue it. There is now abundant evidence that electronic games have the potential to elicit this kind of addictive behavior.
Based on the description you've provided, we would have to agree with your wife's assessment of the situation: you appear to have a fairly serious problem. As a matter of fact, you sound very much like a man in denial. Granted, this has become a trite, overworked phrase, but clinicians agree that it accurately describes an actual psychological phenomenon. According to Dr. Robert Custer, denial, in the psychiatric context, "means refusing to acknowledge something to oneself, getting oneself to actually believe that there is no danger at all." It's a very common frame of mind among people who struggle with addictions of all kinds.
If it's any consolation to you, you're not alone. Here at Focus on the Family we've been receiving an increasing number of calls about computer and video game addiction over the past several years. This has become a serious issue for some families, and it's obviously impacting yours. You may think that we're judging you too harshly or too hastily, but from our perspective it seems fairly clear that your behavior needs to change. The fact that your wife has begun to complain says it all. The time has come to take stock of your values and priorities and give some serious thought to the ways in which your behavior and habits are impacting the rest of the family.
Since this can be difficult to accomplish on your own, we'd strongly recommend that you consult with a licensed Christian counselor. Call us. Our Counseling department can help you with referrals to qualified professionals in your area. They'd also be happy to assist you in your efforts to get the ball rolling by discussing your situation with you over the phone.
Once you've engaged the services of a counselor, it's likely that they will want to enlist the assistance of your pastor, your wife and some of your friends or family members. The counselor will probably coordinate a time when the entire group can sit down and discuss the extent of the problem. When this happens, we would advise you to resist the temptation to react defensively. If you really want help with your addiction, you're going to have to be humble enough to cultivate an attitude of greater openness to the needs of your wife and children and the perspectives of other people who love you and care about the welfare of your family.