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Video Game Addiction – Symptoms, Effects and Treatment

By October 19, 2018 June 15th, 2023 No Comments
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Our society has not always recognized gaming addiction as a legitimate condition.

However, the disorder was recently included in the latest edition of the World Health Organization’s authoritative Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Health Disorders. This reflects our growing understanding of addictive processes. It also demonstrates that gaming addiction is a serious and legitimate condition which can have damaging impacts on people’s lives. Studies have demonstrated that, for addicts, gaming elicits neurological responses similar to those of drug addicts to their drug of choice.

However, information about gaming addiction is still not as readily available as it is for more traditionally recognized addictions. This article provides an overview of some of the facts around gaming addiction.

Definition of Gaming Addiction

While gaming addiction is a serious issue, not everyone who spends hours gaming has a disorder. As with any recognized condition, there is a strict definition of what constitutes addictive behaviour. The World Health Organization describes the criteria for a diagnosis of a gaming addiction: “The behaviour pattern must be of sufficient severity to result in significant impairment in personal, family, social, educational, occupational or other important areas of functioning and would normally have been evident for at least 12 months.”

Someone concerned about their own or a loved one’s gaming should consider this definition. It may also be worth consulting a professional before coming to any conclusions. However, the clarity of the definition should assure anyone affected by their own or someone else’s gaming disorder that their concerns are valid and will be taken seriously. Organizations such as Trafalgar have been treating gaming disorder for some time and will offer advice and information upon contact.


Despite the World Health Organization’s new classification, there may still be some lingering stigma or skepticism around gaming addiction. However, the way in which the addiction functions provides all of the necessary evidence of its legitimacy. Studies have shown that, for gaming addicts, video games elicit dopamine surges similar to those of drugs. Most addictions also have similar criteria for what constitutes a genuine dependency. The focus of an addiction is not as significant as the way in which it operates.

The increased recognition of the severity of gaming addiction has a range of benefits. People struggling with the disorder and those close to them can now be assured that the condition is valid and requires treatment. Increased recognition also validates treatment providers’ work in treating gaming addiction holistically and not only in relation to concurrent issues. Insurance providers will also be more likely to reimburse people who have paid for treatment for gaming disorders.

Symptoms and Effects of Gaming Addiction

If you are concerned about your own or someone else’s gaming, there are a number of signs to look out for. People struggling with gaming disorder will often struggle with constant thoughts about gaming and feelings of discomfort when they are unable to play for a period of time. They may become increasingly restless and irritable the longer they do not use games. They may also spend much of their time when they are not gaming preoccupied with thoughts about previous sessions, or in anticipation of their next one.

If other aspects of a person’s life become secondary to gaming, they may have developed a dependence. If you become isolated from others or start cancelling or avoiding other commitments, this is a common sign of disorder.

One particularly revealing sign of dependence is lying about the amount of time spent gaming to family members or friends. If you feel the need to be dishonest about the extent of your gaming or feel embarrassed or ashamed of it, you may be addicted. For many people, noticing this pattern of dishonesty or understatement around a behaviour is an early sign of dependence.

Physical Effects of Gaming Addiction

A gaming addiction can also have a number of physical effects. Excessive time spent playing may result in fatigue, lack of exercise, lack of time spent outdoors and poor personal hygiene. It may also cause headaches or migraines as a result or eye strain, fatigue, or lack of fresh air. Gaming addicts may also develop carpal tunnel syndrome in the wrist from overuse.

Gaming Addiction and Concurrent Disorders

As with many addictions, there is a strong connection between gaming addiction and concurrent disorders. A dependence on video gaming may exacerbate or create mental health issues such as anxiety or depression. A person may separate themselves from their support group or develop social discomfort due to a reliance on gaming. They may also experience other issues in their professional or social lives that lead to mental health problems. Multiple authoritative studies have demonstrated a strong correlation between depression and gaming disorder. It is vitally important that someone struggling with both conditions seeks treatment with a provider that can treat both issues, rather than treating either one in isolation.

Gaming addiction may also interact with other addictions or compulsive behaviours. This may make it more difficult to identify. For example, someone who usually drinks alcohol or uses drugs while playing video games may see their gaming as a symptom of the other dependencies. However, they may in fact be struggling with multiple addictions. Trafalgar offers psychological assessments and expert opinions from our clinical staff in order to identify the nature of a person’s problems and the best strategy for treating them. The new classification of gaming disorder should also allow professionals to address the issue of gaming disorder itself, rather than treating it as a symptom of related issues.

Treatment for Gaming Addiction

As gaming addiction functions similarly to other forms of addiction, there are methods for treating it that have been proven effective. At Trafalgar, our clinical staff use evidence-based methods including Dialectical Behavioural Therapy, Cognitive Behavioural Therapy and group counselling to treat the addiction. These methods help clients to identify the underlying causes and consequences of their dependency. They help them to develop methods for dealing with them in a healthy and progressive manner.

Upon completion of a treatment program, all of our clients are provided with a thorough discharge plan. We also provide our clients with aftercare support through our Aftercare and ContinUcare programs. Trafalgar’s support for its clients continues long after initial treatment is complete. If you are concerned about your own or a loved one’s gaming, contact Trafalgar Addiction Treatment Centres today.

Trafalgar Addiction Treatment Centres

Trafalgar Addiction Treatment Centres

We offer residential and outpatient rehab treatment programs for addiction and co-occurring mental health disorders.

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