The Leading Expert in Treatment for Alcohol and Substance Abuse
and Founder of The Hills Treatment Center
Video Game Addiction

Video game addiction is the compulsive and/or excessive use of computer and video games. It is not included as an official diagnosis in both the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders and the International Statistical Classification of Diseases and Related Health Problems. The symptoms of video game addiction appear to be similar to those of other psychological addictions such as compulsive gambling and impulse control disorder. Although there are no formalized criteria, it is estimated that 2%-10% of children who play video games are addicted. One doctor claims that 40% of those playing 'World of Warcraft' are addicted.
Games that are most addictive will have some of the following properties:

  • Basis of a leveling system where one's character can level up continuously thereby creating incentive to play more and more to get better weapons/armor etc…
  • Open ended games with no definitive conclusion or ending
  • Games which require cooperation of other human beings online

Those who are most susceptible to video game addiction have one or more of these characteristics:

  • Males
  • Under 30 years old
  • People with a past or present addiction such as drugs, alcohol or gambling
  • People with psychological difficulties such as anxiety or depression
  • Highly intelligent people
  • Those with long periods of unstructured time such as school-children with the whole afternoon and evening unstructured

Symptoms of video game addiction are both on a psychological, physical and behavioral level. Psychological symptoms include:

  • Lowered interest in school or job achievement
  • Compulsive thinking and dreaming about gaming
  • Calmness, peacefulness and euphoria when playing
  • Loss of interest in other activities which used to be interesting
  • Rationalizing and making excuses for use
  • Distorted perception of time when playing
  • Loss of personal control while playing
  • Difficulty from abstaining from playing
  • Guilt and regret felt after spending more time than planned gaming

Physical symptoms of video game addiction include:

  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Decreased hygiene
  • Poor/irregular hunger
  • Headaches
  • Dry/red eyes
  • Poor health or weight gain
  • Carpal tunnel syndrome
  • Sore fingers, neck and/or back

Behavioral symptoms include:

  • 'Binging' sessions on games
  • Spending all time possible on games (by staying up late, skipping meals etc)
  • Decreased interest in social interaction and romantic relationships
  • Concern by others (friends and family)

Video game addiction also has certain withdrawal symptoms:

  • Anger and frustration when stopped from playing by others (or by being distracted when playing)
  • Depression and anxiety when not playing
  • Frustration and anxiety when the 'server is down.'

Video game addiction has resulted in death for both the addicted and those attempting to help break the addiction: In 2005 a Korean, Lee SeungSeop died of cardiac arrest after playing Starcraft for almost 50 hours consecutively.

In 2010 Alexandra Tobias shook her baby to death after his crying distracted her from playing 'farmville'.

If attempting to quit video game addiction there are a few possible options:

  • Cognitive behavioral therapy can be used to change the way the addict thinks of their addiction and to change their behaviors towards it.
  • Individual therapy sessions which are tailored to the addicts needs are possible. Individual therapy tends to be expensive and also rare to find a therapist who specializes in video game addiction. Family therapy sessions are another option so the addict can understand how their addiction affects not only them but those around them.
  • In-patient treatment for video game addiction is rare in the United States of America. The Mclean Hospital in Belmont, Massachusetts has set up Computer Addiction services. Otherwise an addict can seek services from general addiction centers.

Wilderness therapy is an option where the addict is taken to a therapeutic camp in the wild with limited, if any, access to electronics.

There are support groups such as Online Gamers Anonymous, a fellowship of people with video game addiction.

Home | About | Addiction Guide | The Hills | Blog | Contact | Resources
Copyright © 2011 Dr. Howard Samuels. All Rights Reserved.