Gaming addiction refers to the obsessive use of online and computer games. Similar to people with other psychological addictions, people with gaming addiction find it hard to stop the behavior. It interferes with their daily lives and causes them to neglect important responsibilities.
Concern about the addictive and destructive aspects of excessive video game use has been around since 1978 with the introduction of the game Space Invaders. Since that time, there has been public concern about gaming addiction due to occasional but ongoing reports of game related neglect, violence and death.
Is excessive gaming really an addiction?
Gaming addiction is based on the fact that some video games do indeed have addictive properties. For some people, especially men, games stimulate the built-in reward system that exists in a person’s brain. If a person who has an “addictive personality” uses gaming excessively to escape, zone out, relax or engage in virtual socializing, the risk of developing gaming addiction is higher.
The concept of gaming addiction is controversial though. There have not been enough conclusive studies completed in this area. Some professionals in the field of behavioral health believe that gaming addiction is really just a compulsion. They do acknowledge that the excessive use of gaming has elements to it that are similar to drug addiction or other psychological addictions such as gambling. But of the millions of gamers who engage in gaming excessively, very few actually fit the criteria for a true clinical addiction.
The diagnosis of “Video Game Addiction” was not included in the latest release of the Diagnostic and Statistics Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM 5), a comprehensive reference manual for mental health professionals in United States.
Some Behaviors and Consequences Associated with Gaming Addiction
- Decreased attention span when not gaming
- Inflated feelings of confidence, competence and satisfaction when gaming
- Need to lie about time spent on games
- Mood swings when not allowed or not able to engaging in gaming and/or when the game does not proceed as the gamer desires (winning for example)
- Personal neglect involving eating, hygiene and sleep
- Decreased physical activity
- Playing games at inappropriate times, such as at work
- Social neglect or isolation, preferring virtual relationships to real life relationships including those with family
- Decreased time spent studying or working
- Aggressive or violent behavior directly related to gaming
Gaming addiction and compulsive gaming in general can be treated with psychotherapy. When appropriate, medications can also be used. When underlying mental health issues exist, those issues must be addressed as well. For people with severe gaming addiction, inpatient or outpatient care in an addiction treatment facility is sometimes warranted. Support groups such as Online Gamers Anonymous have shown some success in assisting people in recovery from gaming addiction.