Video game addiction: the basics

We review the symptoms, intervention and treatments possible for video game addicts, or parents of children and teens who suspect gaming addiction in their kids.

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What is video game addiction?

Video game addiction, like any other addiction, is characterized by the use of video games to alter one’s mood. Gaming use becomes abuse when it interferes with a person’s life and negatively affects work, school, personal or family relationships, and becomes increasingly necessary in order to feel good.  But what at the exact symptoms of video game addiction?  When should you intervene?  And what treatment options are available?

Symptoms of video game addiction

There is a clear group of teens who have problems with video game use. According to the American Medical Association (AMA), the first sign of video game addiction is the amount of TIME spent gaming. As a rule of thumb, adolescents who spend more than 6 hours online every day are most likely compulsive gamers. The more of symptoms you identify, the greater the need for treatment.

Behavioral and psychological symptoms of game addiction

  • a preoccupation with gaming
  • craving more time playing video games
  • drop in performance at school or work
  • feeling euphoric while gaming
  • hiding gaming use
  • inability to keep time limits when gaming
  • irritation, depression or emptiness when not playing a video game
  • lying about playing video games
  • problems at school or work
  • social withdrawal from family and friends
  • spend more than 6 hours average online per day

Physical symptoms of video game addiction

  • backache
  • carpal tunnel syndrome
  • dry eyes
  • headache
  • irregular eating patterns
  • neck ache
  • poor personal hygiene
  • sleep disturbances
  • weight gain
  • weight loss


If you suspect that a loved one is a video game addict, it will help to confront them with the facts. Many time, a video game addict cannot identify changes to their lifestyle and will deny that a problem exists. Here are a few guidelines that can help.

1. Be concrete – Give examples of the behavior, including time spent on the computer and other activities s/he has missed.

2. Be sensitive – Use ”I” statements, such as, ”I’ve noticed,” ”I’m wondering,” ”I miss you.”

3. Seek a referral – Avoid saying, ”I think you’re addicted to gaming.” Know that you are not qualified to diagnose a compulsive disorder and be prepared with information about who to see.

Treatment for video game addiction

True video game addicts develop a psychological, emotional and social dependency on gaming. The most effective treatment for video game addiction is usually a combination of psychotherapy, medication, and twelve-step programs.  Some treatment centers specialize in adolescent addiction treatment, and include a 90 day internet detox, but these programs are few and far between.  In general, parents or loved ones can get involved by participating in personal or family therapy, and enrolling a video game addict in therapy for social skills and after work or school activities.

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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