Understanding Video Game Addiction

video game addiction

Concerns regarding video games first started rising amongst parents in the 90s. However, the conversation was mostly centred around violence back then. 

Since the 90s, our screen time has increased significantly and gaming has become a part of most adults, teens, and children’s lives.

Today, over half of the households in the US own at least one game console.

Video game addiction isn’t restricted to console games, however; computer games, arcade machine games, and even cell phone and online games can be addicting.

This is because most games are designed by using levels of difficulty and a rewards structure; they provide escapism to a fantasy world where one can avoid daily stresses and responsibilities. 

If you are concerned that you or someone you know might have a gaming addiction, it’s important to recognize the potential signs and learn how you can get help. In this article, we will discuss the signs, causes and treatments of video game addiction.

What is video game addiction?

Video game addiction (VGA) is an impulse control disorder when a person is unable to resist the impulse or temptation to play games, despite its negative effects on their social life, physical and emotional health, finances, and relationship with others.

Similar to gambling, shopping, food, work, or sex addiction, video game addiction is a behavioural addiction. These types of addictions involve highly rewarding activities that aren’t harmful in their own right, however, when done excessively can cause problems in one’s life.

The World Health Organization defines “gaming disorder” by three characteristics:

  • Impaired control when gaming
  • Prioritizing gaming over other interests
  • Escalation of gaming despite negative consequences

The signs of video game addiction

Little boy playing video game in the dark room

As with any other addiction, the loss of control and negative impact on other aspects of one’s life are the biggest indicators of a disorder.

The American Psychiatric Association suggests that experiencing 5 or more of the below warning signs over a 12-month period indicates severe compulsive gaming behaviour. 

  1. Preoccupation with video games: You spend a lot of time thinking about your previous games or your next game. Gaming is your priority and predominant activity.
  2. Withdrawal symptoms: You are more irritable, anxious, bored, or sad when you can’t play games and you get cravings to play games when you are doing other activities.
  3. Tolerance: Each time you play a game, you want to increase the time you spend playing.
  4. Unable to control oneself: Your attempts to stop or control how much you play are unsuccessful.
  5. Loss of interest in other hobbies: You only want to engage in gaming activities.
  6. Continued excessive use of games: Although you may think you have a problem, you continue to play games. 
  7. Deceiving others regarding your gaming: You lie or have lied to others (family members, therapists, work associates) about the time you spend gaming. 
  8. Using games to escape: You take comfort in gaming when you experience a negative mood (for example, feelings of anxiety, guilt, shame, sadness).
  9. Negative effects on life and relationships: You jeopardized or lost a significant relationship, job, academic achievement or career opportunity because of gaming.

Video game addiction can also cause physical symptoms such as migraines, poor sleep, fatigue, eye strain, or carpal tunnel syndrome in the hands and arms.

What causes gaming addiction?

Gaming can become an addiction as a result of its association with coping with negative feelings. It can be a powerful distraction tool to escape from feelings such as anger, depression, or anxiety. 

In addition, video games target the brain’s reward centre, and each time the person achieves something in the game, the brain recognizes it as real and releases dopamine.

When combined, these things can keep a person hooked to gaming and over time can become second nature.

How do you treat video game addiction?

Video game addiction treatment is unique to each person and may involve counselling, group therapy, cognitive behaviour therapy, mindfulness, and other methods.

Since cellphones and computers are indispensable parts of everyday life, abstinence from them is not entirely possible. Therefore, finding and addressing the root of video game addiction is key to managing it in the long term.

Seeking professional help is the responsible route to recovery since video game addiction can often be paired up with other addictions or mental health conditions such as anxiety and depression.
The first step to recovery is recognizing you have a problem. If you or a loved one needs help with video game addiction, contact us at Centres for Health and Healing to find out how we can help.

Lisa Davies - Program Director of Vaughan Recovery and Kirby Estate

About Lisa Davies

Lisa is the Program Director at Centres for Health and Healing. She lived for most of her life in the Durham region, before moving to Peel five years ago.

Lisa is a Master Hypnotist and is certified in Hypnotherapy (2008), Self-Hypnosis and in 5-phase Advanced Therapeutic Healing. As a Member of National Guild of Hypnotists, she is also specialized in hypnosis training in pediatrics, pain management, neuro-linguistic and stage programming.

Read more

Call now
Ready to get help?
Call for treatment options
Need financing?
Payment plans available