Understanding and Managing Gaming Addiction

Check out the following summary of an interview with Nadja Streiter in the All in the Addicted Gamblers podcast. Brian gets a chance to discuss gaming addiction, social media, and mental help with the psychotherapist Nadja Streiter, former Head of programs at Game Quitters. Listen to the full interview here.

Gaming addiction and mental health

Super Summary:

In this podcast episode, psychotherapist and parent coach Nadya Streiter discuss the impact of gaming addiction, mental health, and digital wellness. She shares insights from her previous work at Game Quitters, where she co-created the family program Reclaim. Nadya emphasizes the importance of recognizing and treating underlying mental health issues, developing digital wellness skills, and addressing the addictive nature of in-app purchases. She also highlights the value of therapy, being present in the moment, and the role of influencers and social media in our lives.

Top 5 Takeaways:

  • Gaming addiction is a growing concern, affecting individuals of all ages.
  • Mental health issues often co-occur with gaming addiction, requiring appropriate treatment.
  • Digital wellness involves balancing technology use and maximizing its benefits while minimizing harm.
  • Social media can be both beneficial and addictive, requiring mindful consumption.
  • Families play a vital role in addressing gaming addiction and creating a healthy digital environment.

The following is a summary of a podcast episode from All in the Addicted Gamblers, where Brian and Jeff chat with Nadja Streiter. She is a psychotherapist and parent coach. She co-created the parent program Reclaim at Game Quitters, which aims to help families develop a healthy relationship with gaming.

Nadja’s Background and Game Quitters

Nadja Streiter initially wanted to be a psychologist but ended up spending time as a banker. However, her fascination with human behavior and the impact of technology on society never left her. She noticed how technology speeds up the pace of our lives and how technology has affected our relationships, particularly in the gaming world.

Did you know that the average gamer is now 34 years old and that retirees are the fastest-growing segment of the gaming population?

The world of gaming has grown and changed drastically over the years. It’s not just about sitting in front of a TV anymore; games like Candy Crush on mobile phones are taking over, too.

Nadja worked with Game Quitters, an organization founded by Cam Adair. The organization helps people who struggled with gaming addiction. Game Quitters created a support community for people dealing with gaming addiction, and together with Nadja, they developed Reclaim. This family program helps parents understand and create a healthy environment for their child to have a balanced relationship with gaming.

Recognizing a Healthy Relationship with Gaming

A healthy relationship with gaming looks different for everyone, but a few things to consider are whether gaming has become a disproportionate part of your life:

  • if you’re not meeting the sociocultural expectations of your age group
  • if you’re consistently saying no to physical-world activities in favor of gaming.

It’s essential to recognize that every situation is unique and that there’s no one-size-fits-all answer to this question.

The COVID pandemic complicated things, as many of us have turned to screens and gaming to stay connected with friends and loved ones. While this isn’t necessarily a problem, it’s crucial to be aware of the risk factors and ensure we’re not neglecting our relationships.

Brian shares his experience with gaming addiction and how he recognized it due to his previous experience with gambling addiction. He points out that gambling enticed him more because of the money involved, but gaming also has in-game purchases that can become compulsive and addictive.

In-App Purchases and Psychological Manipulation

Nadja brings up the topic of in-app purchases, such as buying skins or loot boxes, which can resemble gambling. Players spend money without knowing what they’ll get, like slot machines. Brian explains that loot boxes can be easily bought with a click of a button, making it even more tempting for gamers.

They also discuss the psychological manipulation in games that target players to make more in-app purchases. Nadja mentions the increasing amount of money spent on games as a warning sign parents should look for when monitoring their kids’ gaming habits.

Mental Health and the Importance of Therapy

The conversation shifts to mental health and the importance of seeking therapy. Nadja highlights the reduction of stigma around mental health issues, partly due to professional athletes sharing their struggles. Brian accentuates the benefits of treatment and having a safe space to talk about personal matters without judgment.

Nadja then talks about digital wellness as having a relationship with technology that enhances your life instead of detracting from it. She says it involves balancing technology use and learning skills to maximize the positives while minimizing the negatives. For example, Nadja explains how she uses social media platforms like LinkedIn and Twitter to follow thought leaders and gain valuable information. However, she also acknowledges the importance of not overusing these platforms, which can lead to diminishing returns.

Brian and Nadja discuss the intriguing world of influencers, questioning why some individuals are more influential than others. They agree that digital wellness involves recognizing who’s worth paying attention to and ensuring that the content consumed is meaningful on an individual level. Nadja mentions how teenagers and young adults often face criticism for their online habits. Still, she believes that social media can be used for positive purposes, like raising awareness about issues such as gun control.

Brian and Nadja express their appreciation for the Netflix documentary, The Social Dilemma, which highlights the addictive nature of social media platforms. They share their experiences with using social media excessively, realizing that they often can’t resist the urge to consume information constantly, even when aware of the potential pitfalls.

Being Present in the Moment

Nadja stresses the importance of being alone with one’s thoughts and being present. She shares her experience of trying to capture the perfect sunset photo, realizing she was more focused on documenting the moment than enjoying it. Brian relates this to attending concerts and the impulse to record everything instead of just experiencing the event. Both agree that evaluating the purpose behind capturing these moments is essential: is it for personal enjoyment or to share with others?

As new apps and platforms emerge, Brian and Nadja stress the importance of developing digital wellness skills. They believe adapting and applying these principles to maintain a healthy relationship with technology and social media is crucial.

Mental Health Issues and Gaming Addiction

Brian and Nadja discuss the co-occurrence of mental health issues and gaming addiction, especially among teenagers. Nadja explains that anxiety, depression, ADHD, and social anxiety are risk factors for problematic gaming. It’s crucial to treat these underlying conditions to help individuals recover. If left untreated, people might substitute one addiction for another, a process or a substance.

When treating a gaming disorder in teenagers, Nadja highlights that most are unmotivated to change and might even be in denial about a problem. She usually works with the parents, focusing on parenting skills, boundaries, and consequences to help reduce their child’s gaming. She believes that the problem should be resolved at the family level.

Benefits and Risks of Gaming

Games can benefit some individuals, as many games are designed to assess mental health, raise awareness of depressive symptoms, or help deal with them. Games can also be a means for relaxation, exploring interests or fantasies, or improving social skills. However, it’s crucial to be mindful of the addictive characteristics of games and maintain a healthy relationship with them.

Nadja underlines the importance of raising awareness about gaming addiction and providing concrete suggestions to help families. She’s against injecting anxiety into families without offering solutions.


Nadya Streiter offers valuable insights into gaming addiction, mental health, and digital wellness, emphasizing the importance of balance, awareness, and treatment. As technology continues to advance and new platforms emerge, it is crucial for individuals and families to develop digital wellness skills to maintain healthy relationships with technology. By addressing underlying mental health issues and promoting open communication, we can help those struggling with gaming addiction to recover and lead fulfilling lives.

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