Overview: Learn how hypnotherapy for gaming addiction works and how you can try it in this video game addiction hypnosis guide.
Gaming addiction affects a sizeable group of Millennials and other young people. Although it's a new condition, gaming disorder is serious.
The World Health Organization officially recognizes gaming disorder. And a number of other healthcare institutions, like The Mayo Clinic and Stanford School of Medicine, recognize and are researching the disorder and possible treatments.
So, what exactly is video game addiction?
To answer that question, it’s helpful to take a look at what effect gaming has on the brain.
To put it simply, video games hijack the brain’s reward center. The reward center lights up when you play, and because of that, the brain craves playing more and more to achieve the same “high.”
The disorder is similar to many addictions.
In fact, researchers have concluded that video game addiction closely resembles compulsive gambling.
The “high” of gaming (or gambling) becomes something that gamers seek out. It consumes their thoughts, it’s constantly on their minds, and they put gaming ahead of almost everything (relationships, hygiene, and sleep, for example). It becomes an addiction with negative side effects.
Hypnosis offers a solution for video game addiction. How does it work?
Simply stated, hypnotherapy allows us to reframe our subconscious attachments. With gaming – just like cigarette smoking – we generally have a positive attachment, even if the addiction is disrupting our lives.
Fortunately, hypnotherapy allows us to reach a relaxed, focus state similar to meditation. And in this state, we can provide the subconscious with new ways of managing cravings, attachments, and our beliefs about quitting.
Video Game Addiction: Warning Signs
Some people play video games a lot. It’s how they unwind and relax (just like some people binge-watch Stranger Things over a holiday weekend).
For many, gaming isn't a compulsion. It’s something that they can stop at any time.
But for others, gaming becomes much more consuming. These people play video games a lot, not just to relax, but because they feel a compulsion to play.
This is similar to any addiction. Video game addicts feel they need to play more and more to reach the same “high.” Some of the telltale signs of gaming disorder (which are common for a lot of addictions) are:
- Tolerance – When you first started playing, you might have played a lot less. It was easier to feel fulfilled. Addicted gamers tend to need to play for longer and longer periods of time to get that same “fix.”
- Withdrawal – Excessive gaming becomes the normal. And when you don’t get that fix – maybe you’re on vacation, or you try to quit cold turkey – you experience withdrawal symptoms, e.g. irritability, compulsive thoughts, or depression.
- Increased Priority – Gaming becomes the end-all be-all. You lose track of time when you play. You neglect relationships, hygiene and work commitments. And you’re often distracted, because you’re thinking about gaming.
In other words, video game addiction is very closely related to many different types of addictions in the symptoms that people feel. But unlike a drug, there is no physical addiction with video games. The addiction is completely mental (and that’s why hypnosis can be such a powerful tool).
How Video Game Addiction Reprograms Your Brain
Almost every addiction or compulsion affects the brain’s pleasure center.
It's like we're giving our minds a high-powered dose of dopamine every time we play. In fact, researchers suggest gaming – playing and winning – triggers floods the brain's reward pathways.
The brain remembers this flood of dopamine, and begins to associate it with gaming. This is how addiction is formed.
The brain’s reward center gets activated the second we press start, and after it’s activated we start to feel pleasure, contentment, and happiness. This isn’t just how gaming addiction forms… it’s how all addictions form – from tobacco, to gambling, to playing Halo 3 for hours on end.
When does addiction start?
There is some evidence that people may be genetically predisposed to having an addictive personality. But that’s only part of it.
However, even if you’re genetically predisposed, behavior reinforces addiction. Excessive use, over time, can turn into a compulsion.
This happens because the reward system gets overloaded, and it starts to communicate with areas of the brain responsible for executing tasks. The signals get crossed. And the brain starts to think that it wants and needs something, rather than just liking it. The addiction has formed.
Another risk factor: Gaming addiction is more common among men. According to a recent Stanford study, male gamers experienced higher activation levels in the reward regions of the brain, which would suggest that men are more likely to develop gaming addictions.
How Hypnosis Can Help with Gaming Addiction
When the brain has started to want video games, this bit of information gets programmed into our subconscious.
The mind is silently encouraging us to think about gaming, to seek out playing, to obsess over games. When we think about quitting, it's our subconscious that triggers the fear and anxiety, some may feel.
These thoughts come automatically. We don’t even know they occur.
These thinking patterns become ingrained, and they run constantly in the background. And unfortunately, when we experience a trigger, this automatic thinking compels us to play.
What is hypnosis? How does it work?
Hypnosis allows us to enter a deep, meditative state. In this state, we shut off our critical mind and open a direct line to the subconscious.
We can then examine our subconscious attachments to gaming, our beliefs about it, and our triggers. In addition, we can use suggestion to retrain the subconscious.
For example, when using hypnosis to help smokers quit, the positive attachment to the smell might be reframed. We might tell the subconscious that cigarette smoke smells like burning plastic.
With gaming addiction, we can retrain the mind to have a healthier relationship with gaming. We might attach the negative emotions to it, e.g. staying up late to play and feeling exhausted at work the next day. Ultimately, you can think of these suggestions as instructions.
We're telling our subconscious mind how to respond to triggers and how to feel about our gaming habits.
How Hypnotherapy Can Empower the Mind
How does hypnotherapy alleviate addiction?
Hypnosis empowers us to start recognizing unconscious thoughts, and also to break negative thinking patterns. Using suggestions we can provide the mind with new information, to help it alter the way it responds to obsessive thinking.
In particular, hypnosis helps video game addiction in three ways:
1. Helping Us Recognize Irrational Thoughts
When we’re addicted, the brain thinks irrationally. We believe that we “need” video games to survive. It’s an irrational, automatic and unconscious thought. But part of overcoming addiction is recognizing these thoughts as they happen.
For example, many gaming addicts use video games to deal with stressful situations. Games help them escape. But this thought process – this idea that we’re turning to games, rather than dealing with our problems – is mostly unconscious.
Hypnosis can help us to slow our thoughts down. To think rationally about the actions we’re taking and why we’re taking them.
This is important for overcoming addiction. When we become aware of the broken thinking patterns, we can begin to fix them.
2. Gaining Control Over Compulsive Thoughts
A craving is the mind’s way of getting us to take an action. In the case of addiction, the patterns of thinking have one goal: They encourage us get a fix.
This is how the subconscious keeps us safe. Hypnosis helps us gain control over these patterns, A) by recognizing them (as mentioned), and B) by changing how the subconscious thinks about video games.
Here’s how: When we reach the trance-like state of hypnosis, we gain access to the subconscious mind. We can speak directly to it. And in this state, the subconscious is receptive to suggestion. Therefore, we can feed the subconscious with new information and ways of thinking. It’s like reprogramming a computer. You give the mind new ways to respond to these negative thoughts.
And here’s the kicker: The mind accepts this information as true!
We can tell the subconscious how to think about our addiction, and influence how the mind reacts consciously.
3. Creating New Associations in the Subconscious
Your subconscious thinks about video games a certain way. We tend to think only about the positive associations. Gaming makes me feel happy, or calm, and it reduces stress.
We think about the positive, and push the negative associations (that we spend hours on end playing, that it hurts our eyes, or that we’re hurting relationships when playing) away. That helps keep the addiction in place.
Using hypnosis, though, we can begin to create new associations in the mind, or make the subconscious more aware of the negative associations. For example, a common suggestion for smoking is that cigarettes are a toxic poison. Therefore, when the subconscious thinks about smoking, this bubbles up to the top, and it can naturally help us to calm our urge to smoke.
Does Hypnosis Work for Gaming Addiction?
Video game addiction is such a new field of psychology. In fact, researchers are just beginning to study the disorder and the many treatment options for it.
As of now, there aren’t many studies that have considered the impact of hypnosis on video game addiction. Yet, a lot of research has been published that has looked at the impact of hypnosis on other addictions and compulsions.
- A 1992 meta-analysis looked at studies involving 70,000 participants. The authors concluded hypnotherapy was 15 times more effective than quitting cold turkey.
- Several studies have explored hypnosis for weight loss. A 2022 clinical trial found that participants who followed a hypnotherapy program lost more weight on average.
- Compared to nicotine replacement therapy, hypnotherapy was more effective at helping participants quit. In the study, 50% in the hypnotherapy group quit, while just 16% in the nicotine replacement therapy group.
You can read more in our guide, “Does Hypnosis Work: A Look at the Research.”
Getting Started with Gaming Addiction Hypnosis
Try hypnosis today. Self-hypnosis with hypnosis recordings allows you to practice at home. Our hypnotherapy app Grace includes a variety of recordings, related to releasing bad habits and addictions. You might also see our guide to cellphone addiction, along with our cellphone addiction series in the app.