Addiction is an ugly disease that damages both the mind and body of the victim. Substance abuse addiction has some pretty obvious physical side effects including drastic weight loss, cognitive issues, and cardiovascular disease. But addiction to drugs and alcohol isn’t the only one that can wreak havoc on your physical health and wellbeing.
Gaming addiction (though not yet recognized by the American Psychiatric Association, also known as APA) is a very real condition that can drastically impact more than just your mental wellbeing. Internet Gaming Disorder is recognized in the APA’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Disorders (DSM-5). This manual is used to help medical health professionals diagnose specific mental disorders.
Have you noticed a drastic change in either your or a loved one’s physical appearance? Are you worried that gaming addiction may be the cause? If so then it may be time to seek help and find some video game addiction treatment.
Keep reading to learn some of the lesser-known, but still very serious, physical side effects of gaming addiction.
Eye Strain and Vision Problems
This is one of the most common side-effects of gaming addiction. Hours spent staring at a screen, tablet, or phone is proven to cause severe eye strain and vision problems. This is known as digital eye strain.
The American Optometric Association has coined the term Computer Vision Syndrome (CVS). Studies show that many people spend over 17 hours a day staring at a screen. If you can believe it, the time for video game addicts may be even greater.
The screen’s low contrast and glare force your eyes to work harder than necessary to see the picture and words clearly. Digital eye strain is worse for gaming addicts since most video games need constant focus as your eyes dart from one character to another and struggle to keep up with the fast-paced, flashing images on the screen.
Over time, digital eye strain can result in headaches and even the need for glasses as your vision becomes compromised.
Neck and Back Pain
Nearly 80% of people have poor posture. This number is even higher among those who sit at a desk all day. Slouching shoulders and an arched back put unnecessary pressure on your spine, resulting in neck and back pain.
The risk for neck and back pain is greater among addicts who play on a PC (personal computer). That’s because many PC players sit at a desk and use a gaming chair. The position of the mouse, keyboard, and screen, cause these gamers to slouch and eventually, hunch their backs and shoulders inward and downward. This position pulls on the neck and shoulders.
That’s not to say that gaming addicts who play on other devices can’t experience these same physical ailments. Think about those people you see walking down the street or on the train with their noses buried in their smartphones. Their necks are being held in an uncomfortable, unnatural position for hours at a time.
All of these postures cause pressure on the nerves and an unnatural curvature of the spine. Some gamers have reported having herniated disks due to too much gaming.
The two side-effects mentioned above can actually cause this next physical side-effect of gaming. It’s no surprise that a combination of eye strain and poor posture can lead to headaches.
For starters, straining your eyes and squinting for hours at a time will eventually manifest into a massive headache. When your eyes work too hard, the muscles in them contract too often. It’s this contraction that can cause a headache. Most headaches are felt behind the eyes and are quite common after concentrating on a task too long and failing to blink often enough.
The position of your neck and back while gaming can also cause headaches. As your upper body tires from too many hours in the same position, it becomes tense. The muscles in your neck tighten and can trigger a headache.
Over 50% of the adult population suffers from insomnia for a variety of reasons. By definition, insomnia is trouble falling and staying asleep. Countless things can cause insomnia from stress to chronic pain and, yes, gaming addiction.
Playing video games before bed can have numerous negative impacts on your sleep. So much so that those delivering treatment for insomnia must consider internet gaming disorder as a possible cause for their condition.
Like most addicts, when you’re away from your substance of choice, it consumes your mind. For many video game addicts, if they’re not actually playing, they’re thinking about playing. A recent accomplishment or defeat might consume their thoughts for hours after they shut down their PC or console. Lying in bed at night daydreaming about their next victory or challenge can keep sleep at bay.
Similar to addicts who skip meals and showers, some gaming addicts forgo sleep to continue gaming. Even those gamers that find the willpower to shut it down for the night may still have difficulty falling asleep thanks to the blue light emanating from their screens. It’s been proven that blue light from computers, television, and smartphone screens suppresses the body’s natural ability to produce melatonin — the chemical in your brain that induces sleep.
It’s suggested you ditch the screens at least 60 – 90 minutes before bed to allow your mind and body to prepare for sleep. This is a tall task for many gaming addicts who struggle to pry themselves away from their game of choice.
Weight Gain or Loss
Weight gain is a casualty of a sedentary lifestyle. In addition to not getting adequate physical activity, many gamers are also consuming an excess of calories — and they’re usually not healthy ones. Hours spent gaming result in grabbing whatever food is within reach. This is especially true for addicts who can’t pull themselves away from the screen for fear of missing something or their character being killed. Quick, easy snacks like potato chips and cookies are high in fat and low in nutritional substance.
Thanks to countless food delivery apps like Grubhub and UberEats, gamers never even need to leave their house to get fattening food, it can be delivered right to their door. Now, combine a poor diet with long hours being seated and you have a recipe for disaster.
Another, less common, physical side effect of gaming addiction is weight loss. Instead of reaching for convenient, fattening snacks, these gamers don’t stop to eat at all. Some gaming addicts forgo meals and may even go an entire day without eating at all, leading to drastic and unhealthy weight loss.
Poor Hygiene and Grooming
Many of the same gaming addicts that forgo meals to continue playing also let their personal hygiene fall to the wayside. Skipping showers, not brushing your teeth, or wearing the same dirty clothes for days on end are all physical signs of gaming addiction.
While, for some gamers, neglecting their personal hygiene and grooming is a conscious choice (they simply can’t be bothered), others don’t even realize it’s happening. Gamers with a severe addiction often lose complete track of time. As one day blends into the next, they may not realize they haven’t showered in several days or brushed their teeth in a week. The long-term physical effects of poor hygiene can cause serious health issues, not to mention, it’s downright offensive to those around you!
Playing Video Games Could Be Compromising Your Health
Countless people turn to video games as an outlet for stress, to socialize with friends, and simply because they’re fun! While playing video games in moderation is fine, prolonged gameplay could turn into a bigger problem than you realize.
As your gaming addiction grows, your health and physical wellbeing may decline. Changes in your weight, vision problems, and neck or back pain are all physical signs that you’re spending too much time gaming. Take these ailments as a sign from your body that something’s not right. If this describes you, it may be time to seek help to overcome your addiction.