Video game addiction is a recognized disorder that can be addressed by treatment. It is increasingly widely recognized, with “gaming disorder” having been acknowledged by the World Health Organization in 2018.
Simply playing video games, even if you play regularly, is not an addiction.
Video game addiction is defined as play that affects your health, family, work, or social life for over 12 months. If you or your child has been a little too engaged with the latest release for the past few weeks or months, this does not rise to the level of video game addiction.
Signs of video game addiction include:
- physical aggressiveness
- refusal to go to work/school in favor of gaming
Video games have come a long way from pinball and Tetris. Many video game companies employ psychologists to ensure that their games keep players hooked by providing immersive experiences that release dopamine. Video game addicts get “hooked” on achievements and milestones, leading them to play for hours without realizing the amount of time that has passed.
Many modern video games incorporate aspects of gambling to keep players engaged. This practice has become so pervasive that several countries have moved to ban loot boxes – features of games that provide variable rewards, much like a slot machine. Video game companies have also taken pages out of the pharmaceutical and tobacco industry playbooks, employing lobbyists to stymie attempts to include video game addiction in the DSM. These efforts and resources can hinder addicted individuals from seeking treatment or even recognizing that an issue exists.
Most avid gamers are not addicts. Gaming addiction affects somewhere between 1 and 4 percent of gamers. However, when taken to extremes, video game addiction can have severe consequences. At its most extreme, problem gaming can result in death—there are several recorded cases of players dying of dehydration or malnutrition as a result of compulsively playing and ignoring their own physical needs. While such cases are rare and extreme, many problem players struggle to maintain employment and interpersonal relationships as their play interferes with life activities.
If you think you may be experiencing video game addiction, ask yourself the following questions:
Are you preoccupied with video games?
Do you use gaming to avoid negative emotions in your life?
Do you experience irritability, anxiety or cravings when you can’t game?
Do you feel the need to spend increasing amounts of time playing video games?
Have your attempts to control your gaming failed?
Do you find that you are less interested in your previous hobbies in favor of gaming?
Do you continue to game despite adverse consequences in your life?
If you have answered five or more of the foregoing questions “yes”, you may be experiencing gaming disorder / addiction.
If you believe you may be experiencing video game addiction, I can help. By learning how to avoid problem gaming behaviors, you can manage the hold gaming has on your own life. Even if you find that you play a lot of video games and your behavior does not rise to the level of addiction, you may benefit from learning strategies to manage your own behavior and keep yourself from slipping into video game addiction.