Video Game Addiction

GinaMarie Guarino, LMHC

Video Game Addiction

Video game addiction refers to an addiction to playing video games. It is not currently considered a diagnosable disorder, but it is under consideration by the American Psychological Association. Research suggests that many people who play video games (gamers) do exhibit signs of video game addiction. This applies to people whose gaming has a significant impact on their quality of life. It is considered a gaming addiction when a gamer has consequences from their gaming.

Symptoms of Video Game Addiction

There are several symptoms and warning signs to be aware of if you suspect either you or a loved one is suffering from a gaming addiction. These warning signs and symptoms are not official diagnosable symptoms. They are the results of clinical findings on research for gaming addiction.

Warning signs and symptoms of gaming addiction include:

  • Preoccupation with gaming
  • Being distracted with thoughts about gaming
  • Feeling restless or irritable when not able to play
  • Feeling an urgent need or excitement to return to gaming
  • Choosing video games over important responsibilities or personal hygiene
  • Losing sleep to gaming
  • Lying or minimizing severity or frequency of gaming
  • Becoming noticeably enraged when gaming
  • Losing touch with friends and family due to preoccupation with gaming
  • Loss of social life to gaming
  • Having a social life only or primarily through gaming
  • Headaches or pain around the eyes as a result of gaming
  • Pain in hands and arms as a result of controller use
  • Lack of physical exercise or interaction outdoors
  • Financial loss or strain as a result of poor motivation to work
  • Spending most of income on gaming
  • Failure to learn self-sustaining skills
  • Using gaming as a means to avoid responsibilities, emotions or personal crises

Causes of Video Game Addiction

Video games are seductive. The design of a video game is to keep the gamer engaged. For many, video games provide a means to escape reality. Some people may seek adventure, solace, peace, challenge, or excitement. The gratification the gamer feels causes addiction to the gaming experience.

Gaming addiction is often compared to gambling addiction and sex addiction. It is argued that gamers crave and seek the release of dopamine gained when winning a game.

This experience is closely related to the experience of winning when gambling. It can also be compared to the experience of reaching orgasm for a sex addict. The gamer is addicted to the dopamine release upon winning a challenge in a video game.

Treatment of Video Game Addiction

Treatment for video game addiction is closely related to treatment of other addictions. A gaming addict may engage in:

  • Individual counseling
  • Family therapy
  • Group therapy
  • Residential treatment (in severe cases)

Some professionals choose to adopt a harm-reduction approach. This approach promotes healthy gaming habits. It helps the addict strengthen skills for self-control.

Some professionals may promote an abstinence-based approach. With such an approach, the addict is expected to abstain from gaming completely.

Therapeutic approaches that are commonly used in the treatment of gaming addiction include:

  • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy. Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is used to target compulsive gaming behaviors. This helps to modify behavior and teach skills for restraint.
  • Dialectical Behavioral Therapy. Dialectical behavioral therapy (DBT) incorporates a mindfulness-based approach. This approach creates balance between gaming and healthy living. DBT teaches impulse control skills. It also teaches resilience against cravings to play.
  • 12-Step Programs. Abstinence-based approaches tend to promote Online Gamers Anonymous, which is a 12-step program.

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