4 signs that your gaming, gambling or porn habit is becoming a problem.

I get a lot of questions from concerned parents, partners and clients if their online habits are becoming an addiction. So I thought to highlight some signs I look out for in the early stages. I like to think of this as signs that you’re starting to shift from regulated healthy habits to risk of developing a problem. Remember, you don’t need to have a full clinical diagnosis of addiction or “internet gaming disorder” in order to have consequences. It is always better to act early and prevent the development of problems.

Here’s what I would look out for as a concerned consumer, parent or partner:


Sign 1: Do you find yourself delaying sleep in order to game, gamble or use porn more?

Now some of this is intentional, that is, you might wait for everyone to fall asleep so that you can game in peace, consume porn in privacy and avoid being interrupted. Other times, the delay in sleep is unintentional, that is, you often find yourself telling or convincing yourself “just one more game”, “just one more scene”, “just another hand” and then you’ll go to sleep.  Sometimes, you might have a binge session, i.e. you might find yourself gaming, gambling or using porn up until the early morning hours. I often see this type of habit managed by consuming lots of coffee or lots of energy drinks in order to stay online during the early hours and/or manage your symptoms of staying up late on the day after. It’s interesting because often the complaint to love ones and concern partners is “insomnia” which isn’t quite accurate. Strictly speaking, this isn’t technically problem if you do it once off or every once in a while but it will become a problem if this is your regular routine.The bottom line is: Delaying your sleep and maximising online leisure is a bad idea. Partly because you often end up reinforcing the online habit making it more rewarding and difficult to break. The other part is that you really mess up your physiological and psychological systems when you’re deprived of sleep (for an enlightening discussion please check out Matt Walker on the Joe Rogan Experience podcast). So if you’re already stressed, anxious or depressed, repeatedly depriving yourself of sleep is going to AMPLIFY your stress, anxiety, depression and wipe out your motivation.


Sign 2: Do you ever find yourself planning to procrastinate or skip the important activities or tasks in order to game, gamble or use pornography?

so let’s make a distinction: it’s not the thought of you being nice to have a day off work today (btw everybody gets that thought). It is the specific planning or deliberate foregoing of important activities and tasks such as the family dinners, business meetings, going to work, family duties, household responsibilities, lectures and so on. The problem is in how often we avoid important task or activities rather than the occasional procrastination. Now it’s common and perfectly normal to have a battle between gratifying our short term needs at the cost of long term goals and responsibilities. It is definitely unhealthy and problematic if that decision to satisfy short term needs is made repeatedly. Clinically speaking,if I see people starting to take days off work or skip family events that’s when action probably should be taken


Sign 3:  Do you ever find yourself skipping important self care activities such as basic health maintenance and self-care? This includes skipping brushing your teeth, skipping showers, exercise and having a very irregular and unhealthy diet. In fact if you notice yourself skipping / avoiding self-care habits that are appropriate and expected of a fully functioning and healthy adult, you should examine your gaming, gambling or porn habits. Remember, these basic health tasks often require a small amount of effort in order to prevent large undesirable consequences. For example, brushing your teeth is something that only takes 2 minutes to complete and has enormous value in the prevention of a variety of dental hygiene diseases. So if your gaming, porn or gambling has escalated to the point where you are regularly skipping these basic health tasks that were once apart of your healthy functioning routine that’s a clear sign that you should take steps to cut back your use.


Sign 4: Do you ever find yourself  spending more time with your online community than your real-life friends and family? Now this is a little controversial largely because we have a bias to physical relationships and not virtual ones online. The is reality is, real life physical relationships are far more important (and useful) as emotional support and physical support when we need them. Now this isn’t to say that you can’t have deep meaningful friendships forged through online communities. but it’s important to make a distinction that it’s your real life friends that will help you when you fall ill, move house, attend a funeral, face eviction and etc. Even the physical presence of someone in silence and has a very powerful empathic effect when you’re experiencing a very difficult time. As humans, we also have a physical dimension to intimacy and closeness, and that physical need is difficult to fulfill via a digital medium. Now I understand there are shades of grey, obviously you can have friends that you see physically via work or study and you continue to foster those relationships online. But pay attention to the quality of your relationships to your offline friends and family as well, are you spending and deepening those relationships too? This part requires you to be honest with yourself, because I often see “online community” reason as a defence and not as a initial motivator. If we took away the leisure part, would you deliberately choose to hang out with that person and if it meant neglecting other important relationships (such as wife, husband, children, partners)?

Those are my 4 signs when your gaming, porn and gambling might become a problem. If you like what you read here, make sure you check out my YouTube channel for more tips. Happy recovery!

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Luke Vu is a registered psychologist practising in Maroubra Junction, supporting those who struggle with substance and online addictions. Call me or send me a message today.