Video Game Addiction: Everything You Need to Know

Video games may seem harmless. They’re fun, captivating, and they allow you to connect with friends. For some people, video games are an excellent form of stress relief, helping them to unwind after a long day. 

As with anything, video games are typically harmless in moderation. However, excessive use can become problematic. In fact, some people may develop a video game addiction. 

Not everyone who uses video games is addicted. However, if video games begin to take priority over other areas of life, you may have an addiction. 

How do you know if your video game use is problematic? In this comprehensive guide, we will dive into the details of gaming addiction. You’ll learn the risk factors that make someone vulnerable to problematic use. You’ll also learn signs of video game addiction, and ways to manage it. 

Understanding Video Game Addiction

Video game addiction, also known as gaming disorder, involves compulsive, excessive use of video games. Addiction is more than simply enjoying playing video games in your free time. With gaming addiction, a person feels they cannot stop gaming, even when it causes significant negative consequences in their life. 

Once a person is addicted to video games, they will prioritize gaming over other important areas of life. This can include gaming rather than doing school work, or even neglecting family obligations. 

Is It Really an Addiction?

Maybe you’re skeptical about video games having the potential to be addictive. After all, when you think of addiction, you probably imagine substance abuse.

While drugs and alcohol are often the subject of addiction, people can also have behavioral addictions. The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) is the book clinicians use to make diagnoses. This book currently includes one behavioral addiction: gambling disorder. 

The DSM also contains internet gaming disorder in a section called “conditions for further study.” These conditions may be included as official diagnoses in future versions of the DSM. 

While not yet an official diagnosis, internet gaming disorder is recognized as a potential mental health problem. With further research, it may become an official diagnosis down the line. 

It may not be an official diagnosis yet, but clinicians recognize internet gaming disorder as a problem. Its inclusion as a condition for further study is a result of the similarities it shares with other addictions. 

Public health officials recognize compulsive gaming as a problem, hence the development of internet gaming disorder. This disorder may also be called internet use disorder or internet addiction. 

Soon, we may see video game addiction recognized in the DSM under the name internet gaming disorder. This provides additional evidence that video games can become addictive. 

How Common is Gaming Addiction?


It’s difficult to know exactly how many people struggle with gaming addiction. Video game addiction isn’t an official diagnosis, so it can be difficult to precisely measure. 

That being said, researchers have attempted to track the prevalence of gaming addictions. According to global research, about 6.04% of the population struggles with gaming addiction. 

Gaming Addiction

The Popularity of Video Games

One problem faced by people who struggle with gaming addiction is that they go unrecognized. Video games are so popular that excessive use may be normalized. 

According to research, 67% of American households own a gaming device. In addition, about 65% of households have a member who regularly plays games. 

Based on these statistics, it’s obvious that Americans enjoy video games. Since they’re so popular, it can be difficult to identify when gaming crosses the line into addiction. Below, we’ll talk more about the warning signs of addiction, so you know when there’s a problem. 

A Case Study of Video Game Addiction 

Certainly, technical jargon can help you understand the specific nature of video game addiction. However, it’s helpful to look at real-life examples. Consider the case below, which meets the definition of gaming addiction: 

Sasha enjoys playing online games. She started playing when she began her first job post-college. Gaming allowed her to relax after a long day at work, and she made friends in the gaming community. 

What started as recreational gaming has now become a problem. Sasha knows she is spending too much time gaming, but she cannot cut back. She starts to feel anxious when she’s not playing video games. 

Her obsession with gaming is so strong that she’s not able to focus on much else. She finds herself logging onto her gaming platforms during work. She’s disengaged from work and failing to meet production deadlines.

Sasha is also neglecting her physical health due to gaming. She isn’t regularly showering, and she’s lost weight from undereating. She’s also staying up late into the night playing online games. She isn’t getting enough sleep, and her physical health is declining.

Despite these negative effects, Sasha cannot stop gaming. Her video game use has become compulsive, and she requires help to stop.

In the case above, Sasha shows signs of video game addiction. She is playing excessively and compulsively. She is continuing to game excessively despite negative consequences, which is the very nature of addiction. 

1. Causes of Video Game Addiction

There is not one single cause of video game addiction. Instead, a combination of risk factors typically leads to addiction. 

The factors below can contribute to the development of video game addiction:

  • Reward Mechanisms: Video games can be incredibly rewarding. Leveling up, unlocking achievements, and winning tournaments is inherently pleasurable. When these things happen, the brain reward system is activated. This releases a feel-good chemical called dopamine, which keeps you gaming. 
  • Escape and Coping Mechanisms: People may use video games as a means of escaping from real-life stressors, boredom, or negative emotions. Gaming can provide an easy escape from reality when times are tough.
  • Social Interaction: Online multiplayer games provide a platform for social interaction. Being part of a gaming community can help people to feel socially connected. 
  • Psychological Factors: Underlying psychological issues like depression, anxiety, or low self-esteem can lead to excessive video game use as self-medication. Research has found that people with poor mental health are more likely to show problematic video game use. 

2. Signs and Symptoms of Gaming Addiction 

It’s important to recognize signs and symptoms of gaming addiction. When you’re aware of the signs, you know when it’s time to take a step back and seek help. 

The symptoms of video game addiction align with the criteria for internet gaming disorder. They include: 

  • Obsession with gaming, such as constantly thinking about the next game. 
  • Showing withdrawal signs like irritability or anxiety when not gaming.
  • Needing to spend longer amounts of time gaming to achieve the same satisfaction, known as tolerance. 
  • Being unable to control gaming use. 
  • Withdrawing from other hobbies and leisure activity because of a preference for gaming. 
  • Using games excessively, even when a person is aware it’s causing psychological and/or social problems.
  • Lying to loved ones or professionals, like counselors, about the degree of gaming use.
  • Playing video games to cope with negative moods, like anxiety or stress. 
  • Losing a job, relationship, or educational opportunity, or being at risk of losing these, due to gaming. 

As you can see above, the central feature of video game addiction is continued gaming, even when it causes harm. This harm can be in the form of mental health problems, neglect of other activities, or loss of a relationship. Some people may even lose their jobs or give up their career goals due to gaming. 

The  Negative Effects of Video Game Addiction

Video game addiction can bring significant harm to a person’s life. This can include mental and physical health issues, as well as relationship problems.

It’s also important to consider the negative effects of video game addiction on the larger society. 

1. Mental Health Consequences

  • Depression and Anxiety: Excessive gaming is associated with higher rates of depression, anxiety, and other mood disorders. This is especially true for young people. There is also a link between ADHD and addictive behaviors related to gaming.
  • Social Isolation: Excessive gaming can lead to social withdrawal, alienation from peers, and feelings of loneliness or isolation. When a person is addicted to video games, they may give up other hobbies and relationships. 
  • Impaired Cognitive Function: Prolonged gaming sessions can impair cognitive function, attention span, and decision-making abilities, particularly in children and adolescents. This can make it difficult to learn and pay attention in school. 

2. Physical Health Implications

  • Sedentary Lifestyle: Excessive gaming often leads to a sedentary lifestyle. This increases the risk of obesity, cardiovascular disease, and other health problems.
  • Sleep Disturbances: Late-night gaming sessions can disrupt sleep patterns, leading to insomnia and sleep deprivation.
  • Musculoskeletal Issues: Poor posture and repetitive movements associated with gaming can cause musculoskeletal problems. This can include neck and back pain, as well as carpal tunnel syndrome. Children and teens are not immune to musculoskeletal problems from gaming addiction. 

3. Social and Relationship Problems

  • Relationship Strain: Excessive gaming can strain relationships with family and friends, leading to conflicts and communication breakdowns. People may be willing to give up friendships in favor of gaming. 
  • Academic and Occupational Impairment: Poor academic performance, absenteeism, and decreased productivity at work or school are common consequences of video game addiction. When a person is addicted, they will want to spend all of their time on games. Important life areas like work and school can fall by the wayside. 
  • Financial Burden: In-game purchases, subscription fees, and gaming-related expenses can become quite costly. Unfortunately, game makers take advantage of the rewarding effects of gaming. They charge players for in-game purchases, knowing they will spend money to get that dopamine hit. 

4. Effects on Larger Society

  • Public Health Concerns: Excessive gaming is linked to consequences that have implications for public health. These include mental health problems like depression and anxiety. Gaming addiction can also worsen physical health and stress the healthcare system. 
  • Economic Problems: When people are addicted to video games, they can give up educational and career aspirations. They may also become less productive at work. Over time, lost productivity can have a negative effect on the economy. 

Treatment and Prevention Strategies

Video game addiction can come with negative consequences. However, there is help available for those who are struggling.

Some people may find they can use self-help strategies to reduce the effects of problematic gaming. In other cases, professional help may be needed.

Consider the interventions below: 

1. Individual Interventions

  • Self-Assessment: People should assess their gaming habits honestly and recognize signs of addiction, such as neglecting responsibilities or experiencing withdrawal symptoms. Internet tools can help you determine whether your gaming is excessive. Once you identify the problem, you can take steps to address it.
  • Setting Limits: Establishing boundaries and time limits on gaming can help you regain control over gaming habits. This allows you to prioritize other areas of life, so gaming doesn’t take over. Consider limiting yourself to two hours a day. Keep work and school, as well as meal times, game-free. Parents of young people will need to establish and enforce these limits. 
  • Alternative Sources of Recreation: If video games have become your primary leisure time activity, it’s time to find other sources of entertainment. Making time for other activities, like reading, learning a new skill, or exercising is helpful. These activities reduce the amount of time devoted exclusively to online gaming. 

2. Therapeutic Interventions

  • Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT): CBT is a specific type of therapy that helps people reframe unhelpful thinking patterns. It can also help you change unhealthy behaviors, like excessive gaming. A counselor who uses CBT techniques will help you alter thinking patterns associated with addictive gaming. 
  • Family Therapy: Involving family members in therapy sessions can address underlying family dynamics that might be worsening video game addiction. For instance, children or spouses may use gaming to escape relationship conflict. If you’re a parent, it’s helpful for you to participate in your child’s counseling. 
  • Addiction Treatment: Since gaming addiction is similar in nature to substance use, addiction treatment can be helpful. This can include programs that provide addiction counseling and relapse prevention groups. In severe cases, compulsive gamers may benefit from inpatient treatment. This removes them from stressors and triggers in daily life. 

3. Educational Initiatives

  • Digital Literacy Programs: Educating people, particularly children and teens, about responsible gaming habits is essential. This includes providing information about the risks of excessive gaming as well as healthy alternatives.  
  • Parental Guidance: Parents play a crucial role in monitoring their children’s gaming habits, setting appropriate limits, and modeling balanced screen time behavior. If your child or teen enjoys gaming, it’s important to set limits and have conversations about gaming. 

4. Community Support

  • Support Groups: You might benefit from participating in an online support group for people struggling with gaming addiction. This allows you to connect with and learn from people experiencing similar challenges. These groups can teach you practical strategies and coping skills. Some may offer video chat groups, whereas others may be in the form of written forums. 
  • Peer Support: Spend time with peers outside of the gaming community. Rather than spending all your time online, connect with people face-to-face. Join a gym or sports team, or participate in hobbies like playing an instrument. 

5. Regulatory Measures

  • Age Restrictions: Implementing age restrictions and parental controls on gaming platforms can be helpful. This limits young people’s access to age-inappropriate content and prevents excessive gaming in these age groups. Video game makers have the primary  responsibility for ensuring these restrictions. 

Tips to Try Today

If you think your video game use is excessive, here’s a summary of tips you can employ today: 

  • Set limits for yourself, allowing only a certain amount of time for gaming each day. Once this limit is reached, put the games away for the day.
  • Establish times or zones that are free from video games. This includes work, school, and the dinner table.
  • Be intentional about connecting with people outside of the video game community. This could include regularly meeting a friend for coffee or joining friends to see a movie.
  • Make time for physical exercise. Video gaming is a sedentary activity and should be balanced with physical activity. Visit a gym, ride a bike, or take a walk each evening to break up sedentary time. 
  • Participate in an online support group or forum for people struggling with gaming addiction.
  • If you notice that you can’t cut back on gaming, reach out to a professional like a counselor. If you’re a teen or child, ask your parents for help. They will appreciate you being honest about your struggles. 


Our world is growing increasingly digitalized. People of all ages have plenty of opportunities to engage online. This includes connecting with others via social media, using smartphones, and playing online games. 

This expansion of technology can come with benefits, but it also increases the risk of technology addiction. Addiction to video games is a potent form of tech addiction. 

Once a person becomes addicted, they will give up most other activities in favor of gaming. They will continue to game excessively, even if it comes with significant consequences.

Fortunately, there is support available for those struggling with excessive gaming. Through self-help strategies, community support, and professional treatment, you can overcome video game addiction. 

Take the first step today, and take an online assessment to see if you show signs of addictive gaming. If you’re struggling, there are several treatment options that can help. 

To assess whether your gaming habits may be leading to addiction, consider taking this comprehensive Video Game Addiction Test.














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