Video game addiction: Top 10 signs and symptoms of pathological gaming

Pathological use of video games has been reported in 8-14% of people who play video games. But what are the signs, symptoms and characteristics of video game addiction? We review here.

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Signs of video game addiction

The main negative consequences of video game play may be the most important. This is because video gaming can affect your social life or work and school performance….in negative ways. Although this list is not exclusive, it is a beginning point for evaluating possible video game addiction or pathological video gaming problems.

1. Gaming leads to conflict with others, work, obligations, or self.

2. Video game play dominates life and becomes the most important activity in the day.

3. Video game play provides feelings of euphoria or a ‘high’ and relieves unpleasant emotions.

4. Development of tolerance for video game play begins (you need to play more to achieve the same “high”).

5. Withdrawal symptoms are present when video game play is decreased, unavailable or removed (restlessness, irritability, or other negative feelings).

6. Video gamers relapse and reinstate play and cannot abstain from video games.

7. Excessive video game play may lead to increased aggression.

8. A person who is addicted to video games may begin to display decreased pro-social tendencies.

9. Physical symptoms from excessive play manifest such as pain in the wrist or peripheral neuropathy (nerve pain, loss of sensation, or inability to control muscles)

10. Normal social and occupational or educational functioning become impaired during video game addiction.

Why do people play video games?

Most people start out playing video games for fun and entertainment. They enjoy the stimulating and challenging scenarios present in games, as well as the emotions that the games produce. But, more intense gamers enjoy the “flow” states of gaming which result in intensified focus, loss of sense of place or time and can find video gaming intrinsically rewarding. There is a fine line between this “flow” state and compulsive use of video games which can result in excessive video game play.

What is excessive video game play?

8-14% of video gamers showed pathological symptoms caused by excessive play during recent studies in China, Spain, the U.S. and South Korea. But what is excessive video game play? Is compulsive and excessive video game play related to time or amount of games played or consequences of video gaming?…or all of the above?

Pathological or obsessive play of video games is different than ordinary video gaming. It is characterized by both higher frequency and/or longer time of playing video-games than is normal. Although players may initially begin playing a video game for entertainment, video game addicts begin to lose control of play and create serious negative life consequences for themselves. Therefore, video game play becomes pathological when associated problems lead to worsened normal social, work or academic functioning and other harmful effects of video games. In short, excessive video game playing is the result of:

* higher frequency of video game play
* longer amount of time playing video games (how much is too much?)

Who are video game addicts?

As with any other mental and medical condition, there are certain risk factors which can influence the development of compulsive gaming. In other words, people with the following characteristics may be more likely to become pathological gamers:

Age – Problematic video game play is more likely among younger people than older people.  (How do video games affect children?)

Amount – People who play video games in greater amounts (total time)

Gender – Video game addiction is more likely among men than women.

Psychological status – People with greater impulsivity, high hostility, and lower social competence are more likely to become video games addicts than those without such characteristics.

Is video game addiction a mental illness?

Scientists, researchers and doctors are still debating whether or not video game “addiction” is similar to other addictive behaviors such as compulsive gambling, compulsive sexual disorders, compulsive eating, etc. Currently, the experts are deciding if pathological video game play should be classified in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) as a mental health disorder. What do you think? Should this new technological phenomenon be classified as a mental health problem? Your comments and questions are welcomed below.

Reference sources: Cyberpsychology , Behavior, and Social Networking  2011
Pathological Video Gaming
About the author
Lee Weber is a published author, medical writer, and woman in long-term recovery from addiction. Her latest book, The Definitive Guide to Addiction Interventions is set to reach university bookstores in early 2019.
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