This is a question that comes up often in my counseling practice.  Sometimes the question is raised by the person who plays the games. Often the question is raised by the person’s spouse, girlfriend/boyfriend, or family members.  People in general and mental health professionals have lively debates and widely differing opinions about whether gaming can be an addiction and when the fun of gaming crosses the line into being a problem for someone. So how can you tell when the time you devote to gaming is normal and healthy and when it is too much and potentially harmful?

When the amount of time you spend online hurts your work, your relationships or taking care of your day-to-day life responsibilities, it is probably unhealthy.  Another sign of an activity that is a problem is when you consistently find yourself unable to break away from your online activities to eat, converse with your girlfriend, or go to bed in time to get enough sleep to function well the next day.

There is nothing wrong with playing games online or even having it as a serious hobby. It can also be healthy to develop friendships with online acquaintances and gaming partners. In fact, it is quite natural, but if these start to replace in-person relationships in your life to a large degree, it may not be so healthy.  Only you can honestly answer these questions.

So what about your girlfriend and her reactions to the time you spend gaming online? If you care about each other and want the relationship to continue or deepen, the two of you need to communicate openly about this issue. Are there specific ways she is feeling neglected because of your activities? If so, are you willing to change the amount of time you spend gaming in order to meet some of her needs? If it is primarily a matter of the amount of time you spend on it, can you reach a compromise?  You may risk the relationship falling apart or ending if you can’t come to an agreement that is acceptable to both of you. Perhaps your girlfriend can work on becoming more accepting, especially if she is not feeling neglected in the relationship.

In essence, it comes down to priorities and what you decide you can or are willing to do to change your level of involvement for your own health and the happiness of your relationship. No one else can control you or make this decision for you and if you do change only for your girlfriend, you could end up resenting her. Think about whether you believe your level of involvement is healthy or unhealthy. If you still aren’t sure, you might want to talk to a counselor a few times to sort it out.