Is teen video game addiction for real?
Video game addiction is a hot topic. Scientists, researchers and doctors interested in gaming addictions currently categorize problem video gaming as an impulse control disorders, similar to gambling. Some experts like to call video gaming addiction a “nonsubstance addiction”. Regardless of whether or not you can get a diagnosis for video game addiction, there is clear evidence that between 8-13% of gamers develop a pattern of gaming behavior that is problematic and interferes with life. So, yes. Video game addiction is for real. And gaming addiction can cause serious emotional, mental, physical and social problems.
What kinds of teens get addicted?
Video games may be rewarding because gaming can help teens FEEL better. This is actual brain science. Video gaming can activate the transmission of dopamine in the brain’s reward circuits, providing feelings of euphoria or a ‘high’. But who is most likely to get hooked on gaming?
Firstly, there are a few predictors of video game addiction. For example, gender (male) and age group (young) have been found to be strong predictors for problematic use of video games. Secondly, teens with gaming problems who are engaged primarily in large online gaming communities often share similar personality traits. They tend to be shy, have an external locus of control, and use gaming to deal with negative emotions. Finally, people with problematic gaming behavior have been shown to exhibit inattention, hyperactivity, and poor self-control.
Signs of problem video gaming
There are a few signs and symptom of compulsive video gaming to look for. These include:
- conflicts at home, school, or work due to video game play
- diminished empathy
- gaming gives you a high
- gaming is the most important thing in life
- if you don’t play video games, you feel badly
- increased aggression
- physical pain from too much play (wrist, nerves, muscles)
- promising not to play, then playing video games
- time distortion while playing
- you need to play more games to feel good (tolerance)
However, as an impulse control disorder, the following criteria must also be met before a mental health professional should consider a diagnosis of true video game addiction:
- Cravings, urges or growing tension before video gaming
- Relief or pleasure after gaming
- Repeated gaming despite negative consequences
- Failed resistance to an impulse to play video games, even if playing is harmful to self or others.
Teens with video game addiction
If you think that you have a problem with video games, bets are that you probably do. Keep in mind that more than 60% of surveyed teens reported that they play less than 7 hours of video games a week. More on how many video games is too many here.
If you are gaming 2-3 hours (or more) a day and are worried that you might have a problem, seek help for compulsive video game play. You’ll need to be honest with yourself and examine reasons you might be using games to “escape” reality. This can sometimes be scary, but it’s always worth it. If you want to talk with someone, just email us or leave your comment below. We’ll be happy to help.