Behavioral Therapy Techniques You Can Try At Home For Your Teen With Gaming Addiction


If you have a son with an addiction to gaming, this article will help you. This article provides information about signs to look out for in terms of addiction. It also offers some behavior modification therapy techniques that you can try with your troubled teen.

Although these techniques are helpful, please do not use them to replace the clinically-licensed professional help that your troubled teen needs. At Liahona Treatment Center, a therapeutic boarding school for boys, we treat various mental illnesses and addictions, including gaming addiction. Our team of teachers and mental health professionals can help your teen get back on track. Reach out to us so that we can help you and your family.

Understanding gaming addiction

The American Society of Addiction Medicine defines addiction as

“a treatable, chronic medical disease involving complex interactions among brain circuits, genetics, the environment, and an individual’s life experiences. People with addiction use substances or engage in behaviors that become compulsive and often continue despite harmful consequences.”

This means that addiction is often a combination of various things, including a troubled teen’s family background and life experiences.

While mental health professionals are still studying gaming addiction, the DSM-5 lists these characteristics as a sign of addiction:

  • Addiction is often caused by the activation of dopamine or a neurotransmitter in the brain that releases feelings of pleasure. Over time, with addiction, it takes a significant amount of a substance of behavior to feel pleasure.
  • A teen with gaming addiction might try to limit their use of games but relapse.
  • A teen with gaming addiction might not function because gaming has become an important aspect of their life. This can look like spending so much time gaming that they don’t have time for family, friends, and academics.

There are many more signs listed in the DSM-5 that we haven’t covered in this section.

Behavior Modification Therapy: changing your teen’s gaming addiction

All addictions are complex, and many therapists often use behavior modification therapy as one of the therapies used to treat gaming addiction. Behavior modification therapy is a type of therapy that believes that behavior is learned.

In behavior modification therapy, the environment in which a teen is in is very important to the views and behaviors that a teen adopts and develops. For example, if a child sees a parent constantly using a screen throughout the whole day, this teaches the child that using a screen frequently is normal behavior.

Likewise, suppose a teen sees their parents engaging in mindfulness activities like meditation. In that case, they learn that having time in the day where you focus is very important to their wellbeing.

If behaviors are learned, this type of therapy also suggests that behaviors can be unlearned and even changed. New behaviors can also be taught and learned. For example, if a teen constantly hears that gamers make a lot of money if they become good at it (think of gamers who are YouTubers and influencers), a behavior modification therapist can talk to your teen about the reality of becoming a gamer who makes an income out of gaming. This therapist would help your teen navigate various issues that have contributed to their gaming addiction.

Behavior modification therapy believes in positive and negative reinforcement

What behavior modification therapists mean by positive and negative reinforcement is attaching a meaning or outcome to every behavior. For example, if a child is continuously praised for getting their homework done, this teaches the child that doing their homework will help them get positive attention. Likewise, if a child is constantly criticized for always playing their game, then this teaches the child that gaming can cause a lot of friction in their relationship.

Behavior modification therapists often turn toward positive reinforcement since this type of reinforcement is more effective.

Behavior Modification Therapy techniques to try with your teen

Here are some techniques that you can try at home with your troubled teen who has a gaming addiction.

1. Ask your teen when and why they feel like playing their game

The point in asking your teen to identify when and why they want to play their game is to help you and your teen finds potential triggers for their gaming addiction.

For example, do they like to play games after school because gaming distracts them from other things like having to do chores or homework?

Often, gaming can be a way for a teen to distract themselves from their responsibilities.

2. Cut back on time spent gaming by 15 or even 30 minutes every day

Rather than encouraging your teen to give up gaming completely, encourage your teen to reduce the amount of time they spend gaming slowly.

For example, if your teen spends two hours every day on games, then have them spend a week just playing it for an hour and a half. The point in having them gradually reduce their timing is to help your teen, not relapse. Relapses often occur when an individual gives up something completely.

3. Have other activities ready

Rather than having a lot of free time after school, have some type of activity ready for your teen. You might enroll them in a school club or sport as a way of getting them to be more social and active.

Having an activity that they enjoy besides gaming ready for them can help them fill in the gaps created by not gaming.

4. Don’t criticize them for gaming

Instead of criticizing your troubled teen for gaming, take time to focus on what they have done right.

For example, have they helped with chores around the house? Praise them for it!

Have they gotten a good grade on an assignment at school? Reward them for it!

Focusing on what your teen is doing right will help build their confidence while also getting them to do more of the good habit you’re calling attention to.

Still not getting through to your teen?

If you’ve tried these techniques and cannot help your teen with addiction to gaming, then reach out to us at Liahona Treatment Center. At our center, we can help your teen form new healthier habits while letting go of their addiction to gaming.

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