Screen time used to be all about television and film, but now, it means much more. With computers at work, and smartphones in your pocket, as well as streaming networks making television and movies available anywhere, anytime, the average adult spends nearly 11 hours a day looking at a screen.

And between distracting app games on your phone, to hours playing online, PC games or your chosen video game system, video game addiction is becoming more common, even among adults.

This article can help identify the symptoms of gaming disorder and/or addiction, and help you spot it in yourself, and your loved ones, before it gets out of control.

1. Easily Distractible

If you or someone you know is quick to get angry, especially when you’re interrupted playing a game, it’s an obvious sign of a problem. Video games should chill you out more than ramp up your stress levels.

If you find you can’t concentrate without playing, and that you get so immersed you become hostile to any interruptions, you may want to start limiting your screen time.

2. Trouble Sleeping

LED screens are designed to mimic natural sunlight. Which sounds really good, unless you’re addicted to them. Too much screen time can severely impact your sleep schedule.

If you’re noticing you’re playing late into the night, and it’s affecting your sleep, it could be a sign you’re addicted to gaming.

3. Withdrawing From Social Situations

All addicts tend to get preoccupied with their addictions, and video game addicts are no different.

Withdrawing from friends, and losing interest in hobbies that aren’t related to video games is often an indicator of addictive or obsessive behavior that can be unhealthy and dangerous.

4. Preoccupied with Video Games

Related to the withdrawing already mentioned, if video games take over your thinking, you may not be the first person to notice.

If your friends are finding it challenging to keep you on other topics, or your goals have become about video games, you should listen.

It’s easy to get defensive when you’re accused of addictive behaviors, but try to keep an open mind, and take your friends concerns seriously.

5. Use of Video Games To Deal With Negative Moods

If you find you don’t feel right unless you spend time with your screens, you may be addicted. Using video games as escapism every once in a while is perfectly natural. In fact, some studies show it can help with ADHD, learning disabilities and stress.

But if you find you can’t cope with day to day stresses without spending hours in front of a screen, or you get anxious while your phone is charging, you may be addicted.

Using your addiction as a coping strategy for negative moods can actually increase dependency.

If you find yourself relying on video games to pull you out of a bad mood, try another method to destress. Using video games can be a great way to deal with mental health struggles, but should never be used as a crutch.

6. Unaware Of Your Video Game Use

If you feel like you fit some of these symptoms, keep a journal. Addiction makes it difficult to realize precisely how much of your time and energy is spent on video games.

If you’re spending hours of your day on gaming and didn’t notice, it’s a sign you’re probably addicted.

If you find yourself tempted to, or actively being dishonest or downplaying the amount of time you spend gaming, you might be addicted. Be honest with yourself, and spend some time away from the games.

So now that you know that you might be in danger of a video game addiction, what can you do? It’s hard to avoid screen time, between school and work, your smartphone, and your social life. But there are healthy ways to handle your gaming. Follow these tips to help minimize your risk:

1. Limit Your Screen Time

Screen time limits aren’t just for kids! In fact, thanks to time spent at work, and your office commute, adults may be more in danger of video game addiction than we know.

It may not be practical to limit your screen time by the hour. Instead, you should turn off all screens at least 90 minutes before bed, to avoid the effects of the exposure to LED lights, and help you get to sleep, and stay that way.

Add some balance to your gaming by scheduling it in 30-minute bursts, instead of sneaking it in when you can.

2. Change Up Your Gaming Style

Often, a video game addiction can start with a single game. If you’re finding games are too distracting, change it up! If you’re playing too much with your phone, try some PC games. If you find yourself too engrossed into war games, play a flight simulator game for a couple days to distract yourself.

3. Play Brain-Healthy Games

Video games have their downsides, but plenty of apps and games are actually good for brain development. If you’re finding yourself too distracted, find a way to make it productive.

Try a language learning program, like Duolingo or Memrise, which have challenges and point systems.

Or use brain-training games like Lumosity to boost your memory and cognitive function, instead of games that drain your brain and keep you distracted.

4. Get Your Friends Involved

One of the worst parts of any addiction is how it cuts you off from family and friends. Have a game night at home, and invite your friends.

It’s a lot less isolating and encourages co-operative play that might lead to less of the anxious and aggressive behavior that a video game addiction can cause.

With our increase in screen time, it’s only natural to see some side effects. Video games are a great way to pass the time, and can even help improve your memory, ability to multi-task and other brain functions.

But if you’re not careful, they turn into a time-wasting resource hog that can isolate you from your friends, zap your concentration, and destroy your productivity. With these tips, you can help avoid the worst symptoms of addiction, and still enjoy the occasional game.

Author's Bio: 

Kyle Ford - extrovert-introvert tech geek, cat AND dog person, founder of the popular HHDMAG, a convenient excuse for his gadget addiction. When he’s not loading up on monstrous amounts of bulletproof coffee and Huel shakes, he runs the occasional marathon. But his dog and daughter always win.