Video Game Addiction

Although it is not yet recognized by the American Medical Association as a diagnosable disorder, video game addiction is a very real problem for many people (American Addiction Centers 2020). Video game addiction also known as gaming disorder or internet gaming disorder is generally defined as problematic, compulsive use of video games, that results in significant impairment to an individual's ability to function in various life domains over a prolonged period of time (American Addiction Centers 2020) .


As with gambling addiction, video game addiction is a clinical impulse control disorder. The criteria for video game addiction are the same as that for addiction to a substance (American Addiction Centers 2020). In both cases, the person requires more of the source as time goes on and becomes irritable and despondent when they cannot access it. In fact, video game addicts can even experience withdrawal symptoms, hey may play video games to alter their mood (American Addiction Centers 2020).


While the harm in addictions to substances is apparent in physical symptoms, it is often less clear with video game addiction (American Addiction Centers 2020). However, video game addiction can negatively affect a life in the same way a substance addiction can. Those who play for hours each day become withdrawn and isolated, foregoing work, school and other responsibilities to play. Younger addicts often miss out on critical education and important social development, while adults tend to experience deteriorating relationships and problems with their employers (American Addiction Centers 2020).

Signs to watch for

The DSM-5 does include a section to help people and doctors know the warning signs of problem video gaming (American Addiction Centers 2020). These problems can happen whether you play online or offline. Here’s what to look for in yourself or someone close to, according to criteria that were proposed in the DSM-5 individual who is addicted to certain behaviour there has to be five or more of these signs in 1 year to have to be diagnosed with compulsive behaviours like video gaming (American Addiction Centers 2020):

  • Thinking about gaming all or a lot of the time

  • Feeling bad when you can’t play

  • Needing to spend more and more time playing to feel good

  • Not being able to quit or even play less

  • Not wanting to do other things that you used to like

  • Having problems at work, school, or home because of your gaming

  • Playing despite these problems

  • Lying to people close to you about how much time you spend playing

  • Using gaming to ease bad moods and feelings

  • Gaming to escape difficult life situations

  • Skipping showers and meals to play

  • Lying to others to hide gaming activities

  • Exhibiting signs of irritation when forced to stop gaming

Emotional Symptoms of Video Game Addiction

Some of the emotional signs or symptoms of video game addiction include (American Addiction Centers 2020):

  • Feelings of restlessness and/or irritability when unable to play

  • Preoccupation with thoughts of previous online activity or anticipation of the next online session

  • Lying to friends or family members regarding the amount of time spent playing

  • Isolation from others in order to spend more time gaming

Physical Symptoms of Video Game Addiction

Some of the physical signs or symptoms of video game addiction include (American Addiction Centers 2020):

  • Fatigue

  • Migraines due to intense concentration or eye strain

  • Carpal tunnel syndrome caused by the overuse of a controller or computer mouse

  • Poor personal hygiene

Short-Term and Long-Term Effects

Like any other compulsive disorder, video game addiction can have severe negative consequences (American Addiction Centers 2020). Though most of the symptoms listed above have short-term effects, they can lead to more severe long-term repercussions if not addressed properly. For example, someone addicted to video games will often avoid sleeping or eating proper meals in order to continue gaming (American Addiction Centers 2020). While the short-term effects of this may include hunger and fatigue, it could eventually lead to a sleep disorder or diet-related health issues. Similarly, those who isolate themselves from others in order to play video games may miss out on family events, outings with friends, or other events in the short-term. If this continues to be a pattern for a long period of time, however, addicts might find themselves without any friends at all (American Addiction Centers 2020).


Other long-term effects of video game addiction to consider are the financial, academic and occupational consequences involved (American Addiction Centers 2020). Video games and video game equipment can be very expensive, especially when factoring in recurring costs such as the high-speed Internet connection required for online multiplayer games. These games can also be very time-consuming, leaving addicted gamers with less time to focus on their education or career (American Addiction Centers 2020).

Treatment for Video Game Addiction

  • Self-help organizations – Talking with others who also have a disorder have been proven to be very effective. 

  • Therapy – Behaviour therapy or cognitive behaviour therapy is a proven evidence based therapy teaching skills to reduce the urges. Find a licensed practitioner

  • Medications – Studies suggest that some medication may be effective for the treatment of gambling addiction. Speak to a psychiatrist specialised in addiction treatment for an evaluation and recommendations.

  • Treatment programs – Many in-treatment and outpatient programs can assist with a gambling disorder.

Why choose PRC Recovery?

We are a registered treatment centre specialising in the treatment of addictive disorders. Our individualised approach to treating addiction is based on international standards and includes the many proven modalities in the treatment of addiction.

Key focus areas for an effective program:

  • Family involvement – family participation in the treatment of any addiction is vital.

  • Individualised approach – underlying issues prolonging any addiction is based on the individual and therefore individual treatment plans are an important component to effective treatment of addiction by a qualified professional counsellor.

  • 12 step program – Twelve step programs have proven highly effective in the treatment of addiction and starts forming the solid foundation in early recovery. It is also used as the platform to the introduction of self-help organisations, forming part of the aftercare.

  • Aftercare – Stopping the addiction is only the foundation phase in the treatment of addiction. A well thought-out aftercare plan is crucial to sustain long-term recovery.


American Addiction Centers. (2020 January 23). Behavioral Addictions. Retrieved from.


American Psychiatry Association. (2013). Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental disorders: DSM-5. 5TH ed., American Psychiatry Association


American Psychiatry Association. (2018). Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental disorders: DSM-5. 5TH ed., American Psychiatry Association