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Gaming addiction signs, symptoms, and treatments

Reading time: 9 mins

Gaming addiction is the uncontrollable habit of using video games that ends up interfering with many areas of an individual’s life. Just like other forms of addiction, problematic video game use has warning signs. 

The symptoms of gaming addiction include preoccupation with game-playing, increased irritability when unable to play a game, extreme tiredness due to lack of sleep, the need to spend more and more time gaming, and isolation from family and friends. 

There are major contributing factors that lead to the development of the disorder. The causes of gaming addiction are addictive game design, a strong desire for escapism, the need for social approval, and underlying mental health problems. 

The negative repercussions of compulsive gaming on one’s mind and body are well-studied. The effects of gaming addiction include sleep deprivation, poor eating habits, lack of social skills, damaged personal relationships, and financial ruin. These serious risks may result in grave repercussions if not promptly addressed.

What is Gaming addiction?

Gaming addiction refers to an unhealthy obsession with gaming to the extent that it dominates an individual’s life at the expense of important responsibilities in life, personal relationships, and life interests.

Gaming addicts may find themselves unable to stop gaming despite serious ramifications on their physical and mental health.

What are the causes of Gaming addiction?

Several reasons could explain why someone develops an addiction to video games. The causes of gaming addiction are listed below.

  • Biological factors: Video games are designed to be addictive and are meant to create immersive experiences for players. This strong level of immersion results in the production of high amounts of dopamine in the brain, making the brain associate gaming with a pleasurable experience. The person then develops a strong desire to seek out the same pleasurable activity again and again.
  • Psychological factors: The psychological causes behind compulsive gaming are desires for escapism and underlying mental health disorders. An individual may consume video games with the motive to escape real-life issues as gaming can be used as a distraction and avoidant coping strategy. People who suffer from psychological disorders such as anxiety and depression also tend to use games as a way to cope with negative emotions.
  • Social factors: include instant gratification and the need for social approval. Video games offer instant gratification and feedback that could be harder to achieve in real life. As a result, people may prefer gaming to be a source of self-esteem and social gratification. Social interactions in video games also contribute to problematic gaming because the sense of belongingness felt by a gamer in the virtual world motivates them to seek out social connections within the activity.

What are the effects of Gaming addiction?

Too much gaming can have serious negative consequences. The effects of gaming addiction are listed below. 

  • Physical effects: The most common physical outcomes of gaming addiction are sleep disturbances, headaches, a sedentary lifestyle, as well as hand and wrist injuries. These effects result from the overconsumption of video games and the lack of physical exercise that comes with it.
  • Emotional effects: Problematic gaming can have negative effects on a person’s emotional well-being, such as increased emotional difficulties and the inability to deal with painful emotions. The lack of real-life connections may cause a gaming addict to be easily overwhelmed by negative feelings, and unable to cope with challenging emotions.
  • Mental effects: The hyperarousal and overstimulation that happen when playing video games can lead to mental effects, including impaired cognitive functioning, poorer impulse control, shorter attention span, and problems with concentration. The lack of fast-paced action in real life does not excite gaming addicts, causing them to lose interest in tasks that require more focus and attention.
  • Psychological effects: Excessive gaming is associated with several psychological effects, including increased anxiety, depression, mood swings, irritability, and loss of self-worth. The damages caused by the addiction to personal relationships may result in mental health issues. Similarly, people with pre-existing mental illnesses may engage in addictive behaviors around games as a means of coping with difficult emotions.
  • Short-term effects: The short-term effects of gaming addiction include hunger, poor personal hygiene, fatigue, eye strain, as well as missing out on family gatherings and social events with friends. Although these tend to be immediate effects of the disorder, once they become a pattern for an extended period, they may develop into more serious consequences.
  • Long-term effects: Someone addicted to gaming may experience significant impairment in different areas of life. The long-term effects of gaming addiction can be devastating and may include financial ruin, unemployment, expulsion from academic institutions, increased aggression or violence, and seizures. The disorder can also cause serious health risks such as diabetes, heart problems, and respiratory issues due to low levels of physical activity that are associated with video gaming.

What are the signs and symptoms of Gaming addiction?


Certain warning signs are indicative of problematic gaming. The most common signs and symptoms of gaming addiction are listed below. 

  • Preoccupation with game-playing: Someone addicted to video games has constant thoughts about their previous gaming session or highly anticipates their next playing time. This leaves an addicted person distracted from more important activities in daily life.
  • The need to spend increasing amounts of time on gaming: As gaming addict builds tolerance to excess amounts of dopamine, they may feel the need to spend more and more time playing video games to feel the same level of enjoyment and pleasure that was initially experienced.
  • Extreme tiredness due to lack of sleep: It is a common occurrence for video game addicts to sacrifice sleep for the sake of longer playing time. This leads to extreme tiredness and lack of energy due to sleep deprivation.
  • Isolation from family or friends in favor of gaming: As one’s life starts to revolve around gaming, they may disconnect from family or friends and isolate themselves to allot more time for playing games.
  • Increased irritability when unable to play a game: Someone with gaming addiction may show signs of irritability and restlessness in the absence of video games even for a short time. They may also become fidgety and easily snap at other people when gaming is taken away.
  • Lying to others regarding the amount of time spent gaming: A gaming addict may have feelings of guilt and shame about the excessive amount of time they spend on fueling their addiction. As a result, they may underreport or lie to family members and friends about how much time they spend playing and may even do the activity in secret.
  • Neglect of responsibilities at home, work, or school: A person may neglect responsibilities with family and at work or school to play video games. This leads to problems such as poor academic and work performance and may ultimately result in expulsion or job loss.

Other possible gaming addiction symptoms include:

  1. Deteriorating personal hygiene, which can be a sign of self-neglect
  2. Losing interest in non-gaming activities or hobbies previously enjoyed
  3. Having multiple unsuccessful attempts to cut down on video game participation
  4. Using video games to relieve bad moods and negative feelings
  5. Playing despite obvious negative effects on physical and psychological functioning

How to overcome Gaming addiction?

Gaming addiction can be overcome by setting strict time limits on any given gaming session and keeping busy with other stress-relieving activities. Setting specific time limits on daily play can keep an individual away from the possibility of developing a full-blown addiction to video games. 

One can try limiting playing time to no longer than two hours each day with the help of a timer on a mobile phone or another device. Discovering other fun activities as a form of distraction is also helpful in curbing gaming addiction. 

Individuals often use gaming to escape stressful situations in life. It is critical to develop healthier coping strategies when overwhelmed with stress by discovering other activities to keep you occupied. This is beneficial in establishing a healthier routine that will prevent a person from turning to compulsive gaming when faced with trigger situations. 

As with any other addiction, however, overcoming gaming addiction can be a difficult process. Someone who is severely addicted to gaming may need to reach out to a doctor or therapist for professional help.

What are the risk factors for Gaming addiction?

A complex set of factors influences someone’s risk of being addicted to video games. The risk factors for gaming addiction are listed below. 

  • Being male: Males are more likely to become addicted to gaming. This is closely associated with the changes in brain activity that take place in men when playing video games. Studies also reveal that lower levels of impulse control are observed in males in comparison with females of the same age.
  • Exhibiting aggressive behaviors: Aggression is frequently seen in people who have addiction problems. Those who find it hard to control their anger are more likely to act impulsively and may aim the violence on themselves by engaging in addictive behaviors that end up disrupting an individual’s life.
  • Dysfunctional impulsivity: a type of impulsivity associated with different forms of addiction. People who are high in dysfunctional impulsivity have trouble recognizing or considering the consequences of their actions, such as gaming addicts who exacerbate their health problems by continuing to play hours of video games while ill.
  • Lack of social skills: Addiction to gaming can negatively impact an individual’s social competence, affecting the quality and quantity of social skills. The more severe the addiction to gaming, the weaker the social skills.
  • Poor emotional regulation: People with a limited ability to regulate emotions often exhibit inappropriate reactions to difficult circumstances and may use gaming to escape their emotions.

How do you treat Gaming addiction?

man in front of a screen playing games

Gaming addiction is treated by using different treatment approaches such as counseling, psychotherapy, 12-step programs, and medications. Individual and family counseling are both helpful in treating a gaming addict. 

One-on-one sessions with a counselor can help a patient set attainable goals towards overcoming their addiction while family therapy helps cultivate a supportive environment that is integral in one’s lifelong journey to recovery. 

Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is another helpful approach in treating gaming addiction. It is a common form of psychotherapy that looks to address the underlying drivers involved in the cycle of problematic video game use. 

On the other hand, 12-step programs such as Computer Gaming Addicts Anonymous and Online Gamers Anonymous offer a safe space for recovering addicts. These programs consist of peer groups who attend regular meetings driven by a course of action for video game addiction help. 

Gaming addicts who are diagnosed with co-occurring psychological disorders such as anxiety, depression, or bipolar disorder may benefit from taking antidepressants and anxiety medications. This allows for holistic recovery that provides balanced care to address the needs of the whole person.

Why is Gaming addictive?

Gaming is addictive because the hyperarousal experienced from video games triggers a release of high amounts of dopamine in the reward center of the brain. Gaming is the practice of playing video games using a game console, mobile phone, or computer. 

It also serves different purposes for gamers. Gaming can be used for enjoyment, relaxation, socialization, overcoming boredom, and even has health care uses such as pain management as well as occupational therapy. When played in moderation, video games can be beneficial for some people. 

The advantages of gaming include better problem-solving skills, increased hand-to-eye coordination, better attention to detail, and improved teamwork skills. However, if gaming develops into a full-blown addiction, the repercussions may outweigh the positive effects of the activity. 

Excessive video game use has several disadvantages, including increased aggression, lack of concentration, shorter attention span, poor social skills, physical health risks, and the risk for addiction. 

Another factor that makes video games addictive is game design. Video game developers design games with the gamer in mind and are always constantly looking for ways for their creations to be intrinsically interesting. For instance, several games offer different attractions, such as stimulating graphics, good game mechanics, and an interesting variety of choices.

When is Gaming addiction counseling necessary?

Gaming addiction counseling is necessary when giving addicts the opportunity to gain new perspectives on their condition and for providing them with quality emotional support during the critical time of recovery. 

Therapy can also be done in groups or with family members. Group therapy consists of peer groups with whom a gaming addict can discuss their concerns as well as receive advice and feedback. On the other hand, family counseling helps family members find new ways to work together towards making recovery easier for a loved one and addressing issues that have affected the functioning of the family.

What are the symptoms of Gaming addiction withdrawal?

The symptoms of gaming addiction withdrawal include restlessness, increased irritability, headaches, sleeplessness, aggressive behaviors, and emotional outbursts. Withdrawal symptoms can manifest in physical and psychological ways when one is trying to cut down on gaming or when playing time is taken away over longer periods. 

Can Gaming addiction cause depression?

Yes, gaming addiction can cause depression. Evidence shows that a strong correlation exists between gaming and depression as video game overuse is not only considered a cause but also a consequence of depression. 

As a risk factor, gaming addiction can contribute to feelings of depression because it is a socially isolating activity where individuals are away from the physical world, derailing gamers’ ability to make real friends. Compulsive gaming can also exacerbate comorbid psychiatric disorders such as anxiety, depression, and social phobia. 

On the other hand, pre-existing depression among individuals may also result in gaming addiction, as those who struggle with depression often use avoidance coping skills. This may involve the use of gaming to avoid stressors or a deeper problem such as depression instead of dealing with it.

How does gaming affect the youth?

Gaming affects the youth by causing and exacerbating a plethora of physical and mental health problems. Chronic exposure to video games has been a long-standing concern among parents and experts. Existing studies that have revealed its negative effects are proof of the controversies surrounding the addictive activity. 

Among the many negative effects that gaming has on the youth include weaker social skills, impaired school performance, sedentary lifestyle, lack of sleep, inability to manage emotional responses, increased aggression, manipulative behavior, pathological lying, and bullying. 

Over time, the physical, behavioral, and attitudinal changes caused by gaming addiction to young people may contribute to low psychosocial well-being and poor quality of life.