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.

minute read

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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  1. What sort of life experience are you getting from a video game? What kind of skills are you learning (in real life)? Video games are creating a super introverted class of people that get aggressive anytime you try to approach them about this “addiction”. You call it an art? Yet you are missing the true beauty of life, the experience of living. Maybe I’m biased on this because my brother is “addicted” to video games. I see him missing out on all sorts of experiences because he spends all his time, in his room, by himself, playing virtual games. If there is a gamer out there who can tell me the beniefits of gaming this much, maybe I’d have a different opinion.

  2. Hey guys, the thing is, as long as you are not able to react whenever you need to do stuff, it’s considered addiction. I play video games a lot back then and that became a problem.
    I’m not saying that you guys are defensive. I’m just saying that there’s a thin line between addiction and hobby. If you believe you’re not addicted, then good. I give you applause you for not being an addict. Just make sure that you are true to yourself and know when to stop playing to work on something else.

  3. i agree with “Im here i play video games get used to it’ and i play a little more than 70 hours of video games a week but its not an addiction. i do my work and stuff

  4. I play video games allot and i have a fine life
    Its a hobby NOT an addiction
    Like all hobbies, you do get fixated on it like making model planes
    You can make a living off hobbies and i plan to do so with video games
    It doesnt alter my mood i just like the entertainment of it
    It takes skill, snorting cocaine doesnt
    The majority of people who play video games are in the region of 28 years old
    it is a form of art
    he parents are to blame, eg, take it away from them, there not going to die if you do
    Yes i yell at the game, but would you rather me ( or the other teenagers) to be roaming around the streets and doing thing that could potentially harm others and our selfs

    feel free to send hate messages because i will be welcome to a good old laugh at your stupidity.

  5. This info is very good, one thing that it’s missing though, is the acknowledgement that some people will simply not want to quit this addiction, to them it becomes their life, the only reason for their being. Having people beat this addiction in itself is hard enough now that video are accessible everywhere, you can even have them on your phone now a days. Full care and attention is needed to someone who suffers from such an addiction because a simple “your not allowed” will not fix the problem in the long run.

  6. I have to disagree with you on the “medical” treatment. To “treat” a video game “addict” you need to understand why he’s playing the game and why he’s spending a lot of time with it.

    First of all, a gamer becomes negative because you treat them negatively as if they are outcasts.

    You need to treat a video game like a TV series or a violent novel that was written by someone famous. You need IN-Depth analysis.

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