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Is Video Game Addiction Real? Warning Signs to Watch Out For

by | Published on Mar 30, 2020 | Health and Wellness, Mental Health

Is Video Game Addiction Real

Since the 1970s, video games have captured people all over the world. Today, you can play video games on your phone and connect with your friends and people worldwide. People can even become professional video gamers and earn a living through video games. So, is video game addiction real? Or is it just a hobby? Let’s find out. 

What is Behavioral Addiction?

Behavioral addictions, also known as process addictions, follow the same pattern as substance-based addictions, because of how our brains process pleasure, reward, and behaviors, individuals can become dependent on multiple behavioral ways.

Whenever these individuals engage in activities or behaviors that trigger the release of feel-good neurotransmitters in the brain, slowly but steadily, these chemical reactions rewire the brain, causing addiction. Eventually, people find themselves craving and participating in these activities despite the negative consequences. 

However, unlike drug and alcohol addiction, behavioral addictions are a highly debated subject. Even though the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-5) explicitly included behaviors in the addictions category. So far, only gambling disorder is the only officially recognized behavioral addiction. 

When Gaming Becomes an Addiction

When it comes to video games, the stand of researchers and gaming addiction is mixed. Many people, including parents, believe that video games expand the imagination, allow children to work collaboratively, and sharpen cognitive skills.

However, the World Health Organization added “gaming disorder” to the 2018 version of its medical reference book, International Classification of Diseases.

So far, professionals can look at the criteria in the DSM-5 to identify a potential video game addiction. If someone has five or more of these signs in over a year, they might have a problem:

  • Thinking about gaming compulsively
  • Feeling bad or distressed when they can’t play
  • Not being able to quit playing or to play less
  • Not wanting to do other things they used to enjoy
  • Having problems at work, school, or home because of gaming
  • Continue to play despite negative consequences
  • Using gaming to ease bad moods and feelings
  • When the amount of time spent game playing interferes with other responsibilities

Even still, the number of people struggling with gaming addiction is low. It’s estimated to be somewhere between 1% and 9% of all gamers, adults and kids alike, meet the criteria for dependence on video games. 

However, sometimes people have a hard time recognizing these signs for themselves. If those around you point out that you might have a problem with video games, it might be time to reconsider your gaming habits. 

Video Game Addiction Health Risks and Concerns

Compulsive video gaming can have adverse effects on the mind and body. Both teens and adult players will suffer the consequences of hours sitting on the couch, at a computer desk, or in bed.  Everything from sleep disorders to potential mental health issues can be some of the adverse effects of video game addiction. These are some of the most common health risks linked to video gaming addiction. 

  • Sedentary lifestyle: The lack of physical activity can lead to weight gain, poor posture, and increased risk of type 2 diabetes. 
  • Lack of social life: Although people engage with other players online, they don’t interact with others in real life.
  • Concentration and attention problems: Some researchers believe rapid movements and fast-paced action video games can promote a loss of concentration in players. 
  • Increased aggression or violence: Spending too much time on video games that focus on fighting or violence may lead to more aggressive behavior. 
  • Seizures: The British Medical Journal (BMJ) published an article about the risks of video gaming for players who have epilepsy or other seizure disorders. The flickering graphics, lights, and colors of video game displays may trigger seizure activity in some players.

The Connection Between Substances and Behavioral Problems

For children and teenagers, compulsive video gaming and substance abuse might not be related. However, many adults do engage in alcohol drinking, smoking, and the use of other substances. It could even lead to drug abuse. For example, someone who always drinks while playing video games will eventually associate alcohol with the rush of gaming. 

Generally, this makes them more susceptible to addiction- whether it’s to another drug or something like gambling. 

Should You Go to Treatment for Gaming Addiction?

Compared to other types of addictions, video game addiction may not seem so serious. However, everyone can feel the adverse effects of this behavior. When video games start to affect school, work, and relationships, it might be time to seek professional help. 

Even though you won’t find a video game addiction treatment center, speaking with addiction specialists might be helpful. Most addiction treatment facilities will have access to therapists that specialize in compulsive disorders and can provide assistance and guidance to fight the addiction. 

Behavioral Addiction Treatment

Often, people struggling with behavioral addiction don’t recognize there’s a problem until it starts affecting those around them. Most of the time, gamers will face money issues, relationship problems, and sometimes struggle at work or school.

Addiction centers offer various therapies to treat a range of conditions, and some specialize in treating behavioral addictions. 

Many individuals benefit from speaking with a psychiatrist or psychologist who can help them overcome emotional difficulties and make positive changes in their lives. Usually, treatment incorporates:

  • Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT): This therapy focuses on challenging and changing unhelpful cognitive distortions and behaviors, improving emotional regulation, and the development of coping strategies that target current problems. 
  • Individual therapy: One-on-one therapy sessions offer a unique and transparent space for those in recovery to express their challenges, emotions, and hopes. 
  • Family therapy: It can be challenging for family members to offer support; this type of treatment helps maintain the family unit and teaches members in the family how to navigate the recovery process.
  • Group therapy: Speaking about challenges, emotions, and troubles in a group environment, can offer a sense of fellowship and support, as well as providing a space to build sober relationships.
  • Self-help groups: Usually, addiction is a lifelong journey; self-help groups can offer aftercare support once someone ends treatment. Usually, these 12-step programs provide a sense of structure that can help with long-term recovery.

Getting Help

To get to the root of addiction, rehab centers should offer services that address the whole person. Generally, this involves getting to the heart of negative behaviors, thoughts, and patterns through quality therapy. Thus, to help our patients who struggle with addiction and negative behaviors, we offer comprehensive drug treatment programs. 

As a result, we focus on long-term individual therapy and aftercare. Additionally, we focus on life skills development, dual diagnosis treatment, and assisting patients with developing a lifestyle that promotes freedom from drug addiction.

At Lighthouse Recovery Institute, our comprehensive addiction programs include treatment for behavioral addictions. If you or someone you know is struggling with addiction, learn more about our rehab programs today. 

Lighthouse Editorial Team

Lighthouse Editorial Team

Our editorial team includes content experts that contribute to Lighthouse Recovery Institute’s blog. Editors and medical experts review our blogs for accuracy and relevance. We consistently monitor the latest research from SAMHSA and NIDA to provide you with the most comprehensive addiction-related content.
Medical Disclaimer:

Lighthouse Recovery Institute aims to improve the quality of life for anyone struggling with substance use or mental health disorder. We provide fact-based content about the nature of behavioral health conditions, treatment options, and their outcomes. The material we publish is researched, cited, edited, and reviewed by licensed medical professionals. The information we provide in our posts is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. It should never be used in place of the advice of your physician or another qualified healthcare provider.

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