Video game addiction

A pastime that can easily turn into an addiction that can cause physical and physiological damage to the user.

Video game addiction | Table of Contents

Understanding Video Game Addiction

About 2 billion people play video games worldwide, and the video games market is currently en-route to turn into a $90 billion industry in America by 2020. An average gamer plays for around 6 hours a week. Video games are an enjoyable pastime for most players of all ages – it is a way to relax, interact with friends, and enjoy a challenge. Unfortunately, for some players, video games can quickly develop into an addictive disorder that takes over their lives.

Smartphones have currently outperformed the computer and the console as the most popular gaming device, especially since video games are widely available on smartphones and social media. In addition, massively multiplayer online role-playing games (MMORPGs) continue to be increasingly popular, and apps like League of Legends, Fortnite, World of Warcraft, Final Fantasy, and The Elder Scrolls Online – attract millions of players into their virtual worlds every day. Around 160 million Americans play MMORPGs and other Web games every day.

Like most things, video games are best in moderation, and adults and children are equally in danger of developing an extremely unhealthy, addictive relationship with the video games that they enjoy.


Do video games cause addiction?

The addiction to video games is triggered by the release of dopamine, a feel-good chemical that is released in the brain when we experience achievement or success.

How common is video game addiction?

Several surveys indicate that video game addiction affects around 1 to 10 percent of the general population in Europe and North America. South Korea declared video game addiction a public health crisis.

How many hours of gaming is healthy?

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends two hours a day of screen time.

Why is Video Game Addiction Controversial?

It is estimated that there is at least one player in 75 percent of American households, you probably would know at least one person who engages in video games regularly. Only a few would argue about the excessive use of video games, and it is also easier to say that someone is “addicted” when all they need is a break. Thus, leaving us with the question – Is video game addiction real?

Presently, there is no scientific consensus as to when the overuse of video games becomes an addiction, or if this is even possible. Due to this reason, the American Psychiatric Association (APA) has classified “Internet Gaming Disorder (IGD)” as a potential unconfirmed diagnosis requiring further review. Research in the Association’s Official Journal in 2017 left open the possibility that the classification could change one day. However, it stated that there is insufficient research at the moment to definitively confirm that the overuse of video games is an addiction, as defined by the APA. The APA describes addiction as “a brain disorder that is characterized by compulsive drug use despite adverse consequences.” This definition essentially eliminates the possibility of any behavioral addiction.

Another source of confusion among scientists is the fact that only a very limited proportion of gamers have ever shown any signs of a disorder, particularly the specific indications of withdrawal and tolerance. Due to this reason, some scientists and researchers assume that the overuse of video games is either a habit or a sign of some other condition rather than an addiction.

Gaming Disorder: Why Video Games Can be Addictive

Even before being clinically diagnosed with a disorder, some people risk their jobs and families to spend 60 hours a week playing on a screen. Some children and teens are so addicted to video games that they challenge or threaten their parents when they are asked to put down the controller.

Many of us have read about these incidents, or have encountered these addictive potentials of video games. Although anecdotal evidence is not an empirical study, the growing knowledge of other behavioral addictions illustrates why the idea of video game addiction is increasingly recognized. The World Health Organization has recently added “gaming disorder” to its official list of disorders.

“Gaming disorder is a pattern of gaming activity (‘digital gaming’ or ‘video-gaming’) that is characterized by impaired gaming control, growing priority given to gaming over other tasks to the extent that gaming supersedes other interests and day-to-day activities, and continuing or accelerating gaming activities despite the frequency of its negative consequences.”

World Health organization

One must also understand that the time spent by someone playing a video game does not necessarily mean that they are addicted. After all, someone could spend a lot of hours playing a video game only because they love it, and could quit the habit with minimal effort. On the other hand, a person can be considered addicted to a video game if they are unable to stop playing it, even if they wish to do so due to the self-gratification derived from these video games, gamers’ risk, and neglect families friends, work and school.

If someone “needs” to play video games to be happy and secure and feels bad when they are not playing, this indicates that they may have a problem that is just as real as depression or prescription drug dependency. Withdrawal signs of this habit are generally similar to drug use disorders. Although video game withdrawal is still under investigation, studies have reported potential signs of video game withdrawal, including exhaustion, headaches, insomnia, aggressive impulses, and overwhelming desire to replay video games.

Video games affect the brain just as addictive drugs: they trigger the release of dopamine, which is a chemical that enhances behavior. This is why playing video games can be an addictive stimulus. These facts also indicate that dependence on video games may be possible.


How do you know if you're addicted to video games?

Signs of addiction to video games are showcased by constant preoccupation with video games, inability to stop when necessary, inability to cut back on time spent playing games and prioritizing gaming over everything else.

Why are games so addictive?

Video games are designed to be addictive, so more and more people would engage in the game.

What are the pros and cons of video games?

Video games can increase anxiety and depression in some users while it decreases in others. Video games are highly addictive and can increase violent behaviors in certain users. However, it can also improve the basic visual process and enhance executive functioning.

Symptoms of Video Game Addiction

Ask the following questions when you are trying to detect if someone has a serious video game problem:

  • Are they staying secluded from friends and family?
  • Are they lying to someone about how long and how often they play games? Or, do they play in secret?
  • Do they tend to become upset or irritable when not playing games?
  • Are they neglectful of work and school due to video games?
  • Have they lost interest in activities or pastimes that were of interest before?
  • Are they skipping meal times to play video games?
  • Are they tired most of the time due to a lack of sleep?
  • Do they show physical complications from gaming too much, like carpel tunnel syndrome, migraines, and eye strain?


How do video games affect our brain?

Studies indicate that playing video games can change the brain’s structure, as well as the way our brain performs.

Is gaming a mental illness?

The American Psychiatric Association (APA) does not recognize video game addiction as a disorder and states that it is a condition that requires further experimentation and study. However, it was recognized by the World Health Organization as a psychological disorder in 2018.

Can video games cause anxiety or depression?

Addiction to video games can cause anxiety, depression, and low self-esteem in players.

What Causes Video Game Addiction?

Studies suggest that most people dealing with the effects of video game addiction tend to play multiplayer games on the Internet. MMPORGs are particularly addictive as they deliver infinite adventure in a fantasy universe where players live through virtual characters. They offer an opportunity to avoid reality and leave behind the struggles of the real world.

In addition, MMPORGs and other multiplayer games contain a vast number of player communities where many people feel comfortable, respected, and useful (something they lacked in the real world). An MMPORG player can join clans, support other players, make friends, and establish a ranking. While the environment is virtual, the relationship is actual. For the player, the contentment of being a part of something and of having a role to play can be significant and meaningful, particularly if the player does not enjoy social gratification in real life. For many people who are addicted to video games, playing a game is not just about fun. It is their social life and the pillar of their self-esteem. Video games that operate on social media closely align with social media addiction, which is another behavioral condition that thrives on a sense of acceptance.

The need for escape and social recognition isn’t the only root cause of dependency on video games. A number of studies conducted by experts in this field have tried to establish a connection between video game addiction and other psychological health issues. A 2016 study indicates that people who are depressed and suffer social anxiety are more likely to become addicted to video games. Research in 2017 found a significant link between video game addiction and anxiety disorders, but it is not apparent if addiction induces anxiety or whether anxiety leads to addiction.

Video Game Addiction in Children and Adolescents

Nearly all American children and teens engage in video games. Among teens, 97 percent of boys and 83 percent of girls play at least one video game per device. There is significant evidence to indicate that children who start playing video games at a younger age are more likely to form video game addictions than children who start playing video games once they are older. However, reliance on video games is a danger to children of all ages. Video game addiction is likely to have a detrimental effect on the child’s progress in education. A child who obsessively plays video games may not be able to study, finish homework, or participate in sports or school activities. They may also seem tired at school and fall asleep in the classroom.

Studies have shown that overplaying video games can negatively affect the child’s emotional development and academic success. Children addicted to video games are more likely to display violent and anti-social behavior, and may not be able to develop mature social skills. Children’s brains are especially susceptible to the development of patterns and routines. Thus, parents should ensure that their children have a healthy relationship with any video game they play.

Not everyone who plays a lot has a gaming problem. Some experts say it is damaging to label people who might be very enthusiastic about gaming as an addict. One thing that is largely agreed upon by these experts is that the number of players who meet the suggested requirements for addiction to video games is low. It is estimated to be between 1 percent and 9 percent of all gamers, among adults and children alike. (It is more common in boys and men than in girls and women.)


What are the effects of video game addiction?

Video game addiction can lead to wrist, neck, and elbow pain, calluses, sleep disorders, and skin blisters. Long-term addiction could result in obesity, weakness or numbness in the hands, and even blood clots.

How many hours do professional gamers play?

According to sports journalist Richar Lewis, top competitive gamers play 12 to 14 hours a day, and at least six days a week.

Can video games cause psychosis?

It is difficult to prove that video games cause psychosis, but the growing use of video games as a form of relaxation and the gaming scenarios is increasingly incorporated into delusional systems.

How do you get rid of video game addiction?

Control or prevent gaming addiction by setting a time limit, participating in outdoor activities, and keeping gaming devices out of the bedroom.

Popular Beliefs of Video Games

There are many myths and assumptions about video games. Certain groups consider video games negatively and are seen as promoting violence, sexism, and social isolation amongst young people. In comparison, some say that video games can be a valuable resource for education and character growth, enabling children to experience the identities of strong heroes. Video games have both positive and negative characteristics, and the impact of playing games often depends on the player’s attitude towards games and life in general.

Parenting Science suggests that the compelling nature of video games may not be due to an addictive response but to a psychological phenomenon called “flow.” Flow occurs when individuals become so immersed in an activity that they lose track of time. Any stimulating activity, including work or school projects, may stimulate a sense of flow once a person is committed to the process. Although there is nothing quite wrong with being engrossed in an engaging, educational game, this process can turn addictive if the user is unable to stop and takes time away from other critical duties or relationships.

Recovery Partner Network

We aim to educate and empower. If you feel our library of resources does not cover your specific need, reach out to us, and we would be happy to help.