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Quit Gaming and started having mental issues

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My name is Andy. I am 47 years old.

I have gamed for many years.  One day 5 years ago I quit cold turkey because I was unhappy with where my life was going. Two months later, I started having panic attacks, anxiety attacks and periods of disassociation. I struggled with depression. I had trouble sleeping, I lost 40 lbs from not eating enough. With months of exercise, meditation and dedication, along with an excellent support system from my direct family I overcame these issues.

The problem was, I didn't make the connection it was quitting the games that caused my problems. A year later I started playing games again. It consumed me.  I was playing at work, I was neglecting my family, playing about 9 hours a day.  I felt like I had to play instead of I wanted  to. Yet I continued to play for years until 10 months ago. I woke up, realized I had a problem and quit cold turkey.

Two months later, the panic attacks started. The anxiety roared back to life. This time, it was a lot more intense.  And it brought worse issues. I started having suicidal ideation. I did not want to commit suicide.  I had no desire to die. But I was plagued by mental images of me hurting myself that would just pop into my head, which would cause panic attacks, which would cause anxiety and the thoughts would get stuck in my head, just whirling around over and over again. Then there was the hypersexuality. I started to have equally intense sexual fantasies that were very much like the suicidal ideation in that I did not want to commit any of these acts, but they would just barge into my consciousness and torture me over and over.

Now I understand this was brought on by my intense addiction to games and, apparently dopamine. The fact this happened 2 times, and both times after I quit gaming, is proof enough for me.

It has been 8 months since this all started. The ideation has luckily become greatly reduced. The panic attacks have mostly faded. The disassociation (lack of feeling like I am connected to what is happening in my life, like I am watching myself live it) still bothers me, but it does come and go. The anxiety can lessen, but it is still a constant companion.

I came here because I need to keep trying to overcome, and I was hoping I could find people who have had something similar happen to them. It wasn't just a craving to play games. I had a mental collapse and I am still trying to build myself back up. Or hopefully I can be a warning for people that don't realize the effect that games can have on your mental health.

Thank you for reading all this.  I will be around.

Edited by Andy
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Hi Andy,

To get you up to speed with me, I quit games for 7 months, relapsed, played for 2 months straight and then quit again, I have now been off games for 3 months. 

In regards to your suicidal ideation, mental images of hurting yourself and the unwelcome sexual fantasies, I can reassure you that these are most definitely not a reflection of who you are.  

It sounds to me like 'Pure OCD', which is an internal OCD in which people suffer from intrusive thoughts. The anxiety comes from providing these thoughts with meaning but the thoughts can also be substantiated by your anxiety. So if I, a heterosexual male, was to see a man in public and have an intrusive thought of having sex with him, I might mistake my anxiety for sexual excitement and start to question my sexuality.  

I implore you to look up about it to see if it resonates with you. If it does, remember that, although relief is comforting, it is a short-term solution to Pure O. With any type of OCD, accepting uncertainty is the way forward. It's about demeaning intrusive thoughts by taking away their power!

I do not want you to come away from this message thinking, 'I've got a mental disorder!' because I don't think you do. I don't think I do either. There are a lot of arguments against the use of labels. However, one must use labels when they are useful and I think, from what I've read, that you share some symptoms of Pure O. 

There are many therapies that can help combat Pure O and intrusive thoughts; Exposure Response Prevention (ERP), Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) and Eye Movement Desensitisation and Reprocessing (EMDR). There is little public discourse about Pure O and intrusive thoughts but I can assure you that there are many people out there suffering from it. 

Our mental (or cognitive if you will) reactions to quitting games seem to be almost identical. I too, have extreme anxiety, panic attacks and disassociation. Although less of the latter. I experience anxiety-induced nausea all the time which is very uncomfortable. Even now, as I'm writing this, I feel so anxious and all I want to do is fall back into the comfort of playing computer games. It's the only thing that takes me out of my head. But luckily I've built integrity! I would rather suffer at the cruel hands of sobriety than succumb to the falsity that is gaming. 

I understand that your panic attacks and ideation have been greatly reduced, well done. It's really impressive that you've done this all on your own. 

In reference to your disassociation, anxiety and intrusive thoughts, I'd advise seeing a therapist. Therapy gets a bad wrap but all it is is trying to become the best version of yourself and it's never too late! 

I am not suggesting therapy because I think you need to be 'fixed' or have a 'mental disorder' but because I think, quite simply, you can live your life in greater comfort if you do go and see one! 

I may have missed the mark entirely with this message. I actually came to the forum today to write a post about how I was feeling. All I want to do is play games although at the same time, that's the last thing I want to do. I don't find anything else remotely stimulating, I have terrible anxiety and I'm having suicidal thoughts at the moment. Anyhow, I hope this message provided an ickle bit of insight. 

Edited by LordFederickRamsay
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You have not missed the mark. I can't thank you enough for your thoughtful, well-written and welcome response. It is very comforting to me to know others are having similar issues. I will most certainly do some research into OCD.  It has been pointed out to me in the past that I might have issues with it, but I have mostly ignored that idea until now. I have been using CBT, which I have found starts to work better the more I use it. The eye-movement therapy is also something I stumbled across in my many google searches trying to make sense of what was happening to me, and I have found it surprisingly calming at times. Your comment of anxiety-induced nausea really strikes home. I spent months with a churning stomach at every intrusive thought that forced its way into my head.  It still flares up, but it has lessened.

When I first quit games I found nothing stimulating. The first time I had this issue, it tool almost a year to relax and almost another 6 months for the effects to go away entirely. "I would rather suffer at the cruel hands of sobriety than succumb to the falsity that is gaming", as you have so eloquently put it, is something I also strongly identify with and I have been using it for strength to get through the harder times.  Now, months later, I have started to find some of the hobbies I enjoyed before gaming to be enjoyable again.  Music and writing in particular. Reaching out to friends that I had pretty much ignored during my time lost in gaming has also helped, if that is an option.

Thank you again.  My thoughts are with you.  I know this can be beaten because I did it once before. If one person can beat it, so can another.

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CBT is great! 

EMDR is reassuring, have you learnt or read about the simple tapping pattern you can do with your hands to remove yourself from any overwhelming situations i.e. if you're on the cusp of an anxiety attack or experiencing a rapid onslaught of intrusive thoughts? It's pretty dope. 

You've given me a lot of hope. I have been feeling very low recently and proceeded to have a discussion with my flatmate about buying gaming PCs and from there, it snowballed out of control. I started watching YouTube videos (public enemy NO.1) of Fortnite and I proceeded to contact my old gaming buddy, Jet, to ask if he wanted to join in. Luckily, he said no. I sent a long message to my parents about how they hadn't been taking my addiction seriously (enough) and everything has returned to 'normal'. 

But my lord! 

Just from having a conversation about Fortnite, I couldn't sleep for the following four days, my anxiety spiked, my intrusive thoughts returned in full force, I was unable to concentrate on anything (besides Brooklyn 99) etc. 

It's genuinely insane. 

The reasons you've given me hope: 

- The fact that your anxiety and intrusive thoughts have lessened after you quit gaming. You've made me realise that it takes a longer time than I thought to truly conquer this addiction and to rid yourself of the desire to game. The longest time I've spent off games has been seven months (and even then, I was watching Fortnite videos from time to time) - I need and can do better. 

- The fact that your stimulation and passion for previously enjoyed hobbies (writing and music) has returned. You also seem to have had a very similar reaction to giving up games. The fact your intrusive thoughts & anxiety became worse in the following months after you had given up games resonates with me more than anything I've come across before. It informs me that games are responsible for the exacerbation of these psychological dispositions and if I am to achieve stability, I must stay away from gaming at all costs. I find nothing stimulating either, I really hope this goes away because this is the reason I always relapse. When the novelty of quitting games wares off, I make a hasty return to my old ways. 

- The fact that we have very similar psychological dispositions and that if you have achieved stability without games, I can too! As this completely disproves my now former belief that I was beyond repair. 

Edited by LordFederickRamsay

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