Do you think the creator of the game “Angry Birds” ever imagined that the game would be so popular? Long gone are the days of having to put quarters in a arcade machine to have some fun. Nearly every imaginable game is at our fingertips with all of the phone, iPad, computer and handheld gaming devices available today.

For some people, the idea of a “gaming addiction” is a foreign one–unlike alcohol or drug abuse, or gambling, this isn’t a problem that previous generations ever had because the technology didn’t exist. But for people who are watching their relationships fall apart because their partners can’t pry themselves away from playing games, this is a real problem.

How do you know if your partner is addicted to gaming?

Something becomes an addiction when it interferes with a person’s educational, occupational, or social obligations. It isn’t so much about how much time a person spends playing, but whether that time playing means they miss school, work, or being with others.

So, if your partner is playing games during his free time, but is still going to work like normal and is interacting with you like always, he probably doesn’t have a problem. But if he’s staying up all night to play and is missing work because of a lack of sleep (or to stay home and play more), he might have a problem.

Some warning signs of gaming addiction:

  • Losing track of time while playing
  • Neglecting responsibilities because of time spent playing games
  • Feeling more connected to people met online through gaming than with people in their everyday life
  • Other people show concern about the amount of time your partner is gaming
  • Changes in weight/appearance due to either neglecting to eat appropriately or overeating/lack of exercise while gaming
  • Defensive remarks when confronted about gaming habits

Why is my partner addicted to gaming?

Like any addiction, gaming can help to ease psychic pain your partner may be experiencing. People often say they don’t have to think while playing games. Gaming can provide relief from anxiety and depression, although it doesn’t erase it, especially when your partner has to face reality. Virtual worlds in games can seem more exciting than real life. People who struggle socially find relief in “connecting” with others online, as they are able to create a persona online that they couldn’t pull off in the real world.

How can you help?

  • Discuss your concerns with your partner. Taking away all the gaming devices isn’t likely to be effective, any more than going cold turkey for an alcoholic or drug addict is. But putting limits on how much time your partner can spend gaming and during what time of day may curb the behavior enough so it doesn’t interfere with your life.
  • Get involved in other activities with your partner. If they are doing something else they enjoy with you, then gaming might become less important.
  • Don’t enable your partner. You may have been working around your partner’s gaming time by pushing dinner back or agreeing to not go out so he could stay home and play instead. Set your own boundaries and stick to them. If your partner doesn’t want to join you, do it for yourself anyway.
  • Consider professional help, individually and as a couple. This isn’t just about a game being too fun to stop playing. If your partner has a gaming addiction, there are bigger issues to be addressed.