This qualitative study examined the psychological consequences of an 84-h Internet gaming abstinence period for young adults with and without Internet gaming disorder. Using a repeated-measures online survey methodology, participants were asked to abstain and then describe their craving for Internet games, including any coping strategies used to manage craving, and to reflect on the positive and negative aspects of gaming abstinence. A total of 155 written responses were gathered from 24 participants (M age = 24.6 years, SD = 5.8), including 9 who met the criteria for Internet gaming disorder, recruited from online gaming communities. Participants completed a series of seven online surveys containing open-ended questions before, during, and after abstaining from Massively Multiplayer Online games. The results revealed several key themes, including: (1) internal and external cues that elicit craving for Internet games; (2) beliefs and assumptions about Internet gaming experiences; (3) negative affect related to abstinence; (4) coping strategies for managing craving; (5) beneficial outcomes in behavioral and cognitive domains, including adjustments to gaming-specific activities; and (6) negative outcomes such as unwanted emotional and cognitive states, and social isolation. Notably, participants' reactions to gaming abstinence could be broadly characterized as boredom and a drive for mental stimulation, which seemed somewhat inconsistent with the DSM-5 criterion of withdrawal. These data provide new insights to guide clinical conceptualization and interventions for problematic patterns of Internet gaming behavior.
- Internet gaming disorder