The Signs and Effects of Video Game Addiction

Video Game Addiction — Treatment, Symptoms, and Causes

The Signs and Effects of Video Game Addiction

Video game addiction is a real mental health condition affecting millions of people around the world.

The World Health Organization recognizes it as “Gaming Disorder” in their International Classification of Diseases (ICD-11) as “a pattern of persistent or recurrent gaming behaviour, which may be online or offline, manifested by impaired control over gaming, increasing priority given to gaming to the extent that gaming takes precedence over other life interests and daily activities and continuation or escalation of gaming despite the occurrence of negative consequences.”

Although billions of people play video games, the majority of them do not have an addiction to gaming, and the World Health Organization estimates the number of people with an addiction is 3-4%. The difference between a healthy fun gaming hobby and an addiction is the negative impact the activity is having in your life.

Typically a gaming addict will have a level of severity resulting in “significant impairment in personal, family, social, educational, occupational or other important areas of functioning,” and the pattern of gaming behavior is “normally evident over a period of at least 12 months in order for a diagnosis to be assigned, although the required duration may be shortened if all diagnostic requirements are met and symptoms are severe.”

What Causes Gaming Addiction?

Video games are designed to be addictive using state-of-the-art behavioral psychology to keep you hooked. Games are immersive experiences that provide you with a high amount of dopamine, and overexposure to this level of stimulation can cause structural changes to your brain 11.The association between online gaming, social phobia, and depression: an internet survey ×.

You begin to live in a world where you expect instant gratification. Games are so immersive that it’s easy to play for hours and hours without even noticing that a minute has gone by. They allow you to escape and see measurable progress. They are social and create an environment where you feel safe and in control.

Game developers also deploy manipulative game design features such as in-app purchases, microtransactions, and loot boxes that some governments have declared illegal – because they are a form of gambling. Gaming addiction exists because game companies are billion-dollar industries and the more people they have hooked on games, the more money they make.

Is Gaming Taking Over Your Life? Take a short quiz.

What Are the Warning Signs?

The American Psychiatric Association has identified nine warning signs to watch for when it comes to recognising gaming disorder. Although these can be helpful to better understand the severity of your own situation, it’s important to always seek the advice of a professional.

  1. Preoccupation with video games. The individual thinks about previous gaming activity or anticipates playing the next game; Gaming becomes the dominant activity in daily life.
  2. Withdrawal symptoms when gaming is taken away. These symptoms are typically described as irritability, anxiety, boredom, cravings, or sadness.
  3. Tolerance – the need to spend increasing amounts of time engaged in video games. This may be motivated by a need for the completion of increasingly intricate, time-consuming, or difficult goals to achieve satisfaction and/or reduce fears of missing out.
  4. Unsuccessful attempts to control participation in video games.
  5. Loss of interests in previous hobbies and entertainment as a result of, and with the exception of, video games.
  6. Continued excessive use of games despite knowledge of psychosocial problems. The individual continues to play despite a negative impact.
  7. Has deceived family members, therapists, or others regarding their gaming.
  8. Use of video games to escape or relieve a negative mood (e.g., feelings of helplessness, guilt, anxiety).
  9. Has jeopardized or lost a significant relationship, job, educational, or career opportunity because of participation in video games.

If you meet five (or more) of the following warning signs in a 12-month period, you may have an addiction and should seek the help of a professional immediately.

Effects of Video Game Addiction

Gaming addiction is a compulsive mental health disorder that can cause severe damage to one’s life. It’s common for a video game addict to spend over 10 hours a day gaming, usually well into the night, and many suffer from sleep deprivation 22.

Massively multiplayer online role-playing games: comparing characteristics of addict vs non-addict online recruited gamers in a French adult population ×. Immersed in their experience, gamers are known to have poor diets consisting mainly of energy drinks full of caffeine and sugar.

Many are dehydrated and malnourished.

In more severe cases, gaming addicts report agoraphobia – a type of anxiety disorder in which they fear leaving the house – and others identify with hikikomori — a term popularized in Japan as reclusive adolescents or adults who withdraw from social life 33.A preliminary cross-cultural study of Hikikomori and Internet Gaming Disorder: The moderating effects of game-playing time and living with parents ×.

Gaming addicts tend to be moody and irritable, depressed, physically aggressive, and refuse to go to school or work due to gaming. To be addicted to games is to experience functional impairment in multiple areas of your life, and the long-term effects can be devastating. Gaming addicts fail college. They get divorced. And they struggle with unemployment.

Video Game Addiction Test

If you would to screen yourself for a video game addiction, read the nine warning signs and symptoms above, or take our short quiz here.

If you are concerned about your gaming use, we recommend seeking help immediately. You can either talk to a therapist or begin by starting a 90-day detox.

Addiction or Underlying Mental Health Problem?

In the debate around video game addiction, you often hear the objection that gaming is better understood as a coping mechanism for underlying mental health problems such as anxiety, depression, or attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), and not a disorder in its own right. Is this true?

No. It is widely established in the addiction field that comorbidity – the simultaneous presence of two chronic diseases or conditions in a patient — is common, and gaming disorder is no exception 44.Both sides of the story: Addiction is not a pastime activity ×.

For some, gaming excessively will be a form of coping with another condition and may progress to a gaming addiction 55.

Behavioural addiction and substance addiction should be defined by their similarities not their dissimilarities×, comparable to the behavior of substance-related disorders, and for others gaming excessively will be a function of impairment.

Whether problematic gaming came first, or as a result of underlying mental health problems, therapeutic goals should include treatment of the gaming disorder itself because this disorder can be the underlying agent of functional impairment, and its treatment might be a prerequisite for effective treatment of comorbid conditions 66.The Comorbid Psychiatric Symptoms of Internet Addiction: Attention Deficit and Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), Depression, Social Phobia, and Hostility×,77.Association between Internet Gaming Disorder or Pathological Video-Game Use and Comorbid Psychopathology: A Comprehensive Review×.

How to Treat Video Game Addiction

The important thing to remember is that no matter what difficulties you’re trying to overcome, you’re not alone. Now that gaming disorder has been recognised as an official disease, more and more people are able to seek the help that they need.

The good news is that help is available for someone struggling with gaming disorder. Game Quitters is an online peer support community with hundreds of free videos, a community forum, and an affordable program for both gamers and for parents.

If you’re looking for professional help, browse our directory for a video game addiction therapist.

If you’re struggling to imagine your life being any different, have a look at our library of video game addiction stories. Hundreds of people have turned their lives around through Game Quitters, and you can do the same.

Even if you don’t want to quit gaming forever, you might be amazed how much your life could change if you take some time away from video games. Don’t look back a year from now and regret not taking action.

Take 90 days off gaming now, and change your life for the better.


Video Game Addiction Statistics

The Signs and Effects of Video Game Addiction

For many people, video games are a fun and enjoyable hobby, but for others, they can become a harmful habit. Video game usage becomes problematic when it impacts a person’s relationships and daily functioning.

At present time, video game addiction is not included in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5), but the World Health Organization has classified gaming disorder as a disease in the International Classification of Diseases (ICD-11).

Online video game addiction is becoming a real problem and has become the topic of numerous research studies. Video game addiction statistics tend to vary, as there are no formal diagnostic criteria, symptoms or behaviors to define video game addiction. However, the facts about video game addiction show that compulsive gaming is a significant problem for many people.

Why Are Video Games Addictive?

Research has attempted to explore why video games are addictive. One reason is that video games are designed to entice players to play them. Video games must be challenging enough to keep players playing, but not so challenging that they cause players to give up. Some video games have no final goal or definitive end, which allows players to continue to play them indefinitely.

Many addictive video games encourage people to electronically connect with each other, which can promote continued gameplay.

  Some video games operate on leveling and variable reward systems, where people earn skills or rewards by beating certain levels without knowing exactly when it will occur.

Knowing that a big reward will come eventually and playing to reach the next level can increase their overall playing time.

There are several emotional and physical warning signs of video game addiction that can be indicative of a problem.

Individuals may be consumed with thoughts about playing and show signs of impatience and agitation when they are unable to play.

People may be dishonest about the amount of time that they spend playing video games and isolate themselves to play for longer. Physical symptoms include:

  • Tiredness
  • Headaches and migraines
  • Carpal tunnel syndrome
  • Lack of personal hygiene.

Gamer Demographics

More than 2 billion people play video games globally, including 150 million in the United States. Online video game addiction statistics show that anywhere from 1–10% of gamers have compulsive addiction issues.

Other gamer demographics include:

  • 64% of the U.S. population are gamers
  • The average male gamer is 33 years old.
  • The average female gamer is 37 years old.
  • Males between the ages of 18–24 are most at risk for gaming addiction
  • 94% of males and 6% of females represent the gender breakdown for gaming addiction
  • 69% Caucasian, 13% Asian and 18% of other ethnicities is the ethnicity breakdown for gaming addiction.

The Rise in Gaming Addiction

The video game industry continues to grow at a rapid rate. In 1999, the industry generates $7.4 billion in revenue, compared to $131 billion in 2018. Some reports speculate that the video game industry could make $300 billion by 2025.

Video game accessibility is also on the rise due to technological advancements. Individuals can now play video games on televisions, cell phones, desktop computers or notebook computers. This accessibility has allowed more individuals to play video games more often.

Video Game Usage Rates

Statistics on video game usage tend to show growth in the average time spent playing video games.

One study reports that while individuals played video games for an average of 26 minutes per day in 1999, it had increased to 32 minutes per day in 2004.

Another study found that by 2009, 8 to 18-year-olds spent an average of 1 hour and 13 minutes playing video games on consoles, handheld players and other devices.

Most Addictive Video Games

The most addictive video games include massively multiplayer online games (MMOs) and role-playing games (RPGs). Some games feature elements of both these popular styles (MMORPGs).

MMOs can be addictive because individuals can comfortably interact with numerous people in a collaborative or competitive setting. RPGs are addictive in that individuals can role play another life that they may be envious of or desire.

Multiplayer online game statistics show that 22% of gamers spent between 61–80% of their time playing multiplayer online games.

Some of the most addictive video games played today include:

  • Fortnite. Fortnite is a shooter game where an individual plays against 99 other gamers with the goal of being the last one alive. The game is played by more than 200 million people and has made at least 1.2 billion dollars through V-Bucks, or in-game currency.
  • League of Legends. League of Legends is a multiplayer game where a team of individuals battle another team of players with the goal of destroying their “nexus” structure.
  • World of Warcraft. World of Warcraft entails a person controlling an avatar to explore lands, fight monsters, conquer quests and interact with other players. As of 2009, 11 million people around the world were playing the game
  • Call of Duty. Call of Duty is a first-person shooter game set in various settings. In 2003, the first version of the game was set in World War II, but throughout the years, more modern settings, such as the Cold War or space have been added.
  • Assassin’s Creed. Assassin’s Creed is an action adventure game in the third person perspective where individuals fight, explore and complete quests. While the game has individual missions and some games are competitive and cooperative games where multiple individuals can partake.

Harmful Effects of Video Game Addiction

There are several short and long term negative effects of video game addiction. In the short-term, individuals may experience disruptions to their sleeping habits, leading to fatigue, sleepiness or insomnia. They may also have a disruption in their eating habits, leading to skipping meals, poor nutrition and hunger.

People may isolate themselves and miss out on socialization opportunities, which can potentially lead to a loss of friends and decreased social skills. People may also be at increased risk for seizures due to the flashing and fast-paced images included in video games.

Long-term effects of video game addiction may impair a person’s academic, career or financial success.

Video Game Addiction and Co-Occurring Disorders

Individuals play video games for various reasons, whether it be for entertainment, competition or as a coping mechanism for other conditions. Video game addiction is also found to often co-occur with other conditions. 

  • Gaming and Depression: There is a significant correlation between video game addiction and depression. One study found that 9% of elementary and secondary school students were classified as pathological gamers and were using video games as a coping strategy when already depressed and anxious. Individuals who are depressed may isolate themselves and attempt to escape from stressors with video games. 
  • Gaming and Anxiety: Another linkage has been found between video games and anxiety. Some people use video games to cope with stress and anxiety, as they are able to escape stressors and ignore recurrent thoughts by maintaining focus on their games. Another correlation exists between video games and social anxiety, as gaming enables people with social anxiety to connect with others without having to physically interact with them. As people become more comfortable interacting virtually, they tend to become more anxious in regards to real-life interactions, causing further isolation and increased gaming. One study researched individuals who play MMORPG’s and found that increased levels of social anxiety disorder were linked with those who had internet gaming disorder. The study also found that individuals with social anxiety disorder were less anxious when interacting with others through their avatars.   
  • Gaming and ADHD: ADHD and video game addiction also have a connection. Individuals with ADHD may play excessively due to poor time management and have the ability to hyperfocus on a video game, which tend to reward brief spurts of attention. A study found that individuals with ADHD had an elevated rate of compulsive and problematic video game usage. 
  • Gaming and Autism: The correlation between autism and video game addiction suggests that people with autism can become overly involved in gaming due to repetitive behaviors, resulting in inattentiveness and obsessive behaviors leading to addictive playing patterns. One study found that the average time of male children ages 8 to 18 with an autism spectrum diagnosis was 2.4 hours per day and those who played role-playing games were more ly to display oppositional behaviors. 

Statistics on Video Game Addiction Treatment

Video game addiction is an impulse control disorder that can be just as serious as other types of addictions. Treatment is necessary to help a person to overcome their dependency on video games. As video game addiction is a fairly new disorder, research is still ongoing to help develop proven treatment methods.

Video game addiction treatment is comparable to other addiction treatments. Individual and family counseling, along with behavior modification, is the treatment of choice. At times and if warranted, medication may be included in the treatment plan.

Un other types of addictions, it is difficult to remain abstinent when computers are an integral part of life for the majority of people.

Due to this fact, treatment may focus on controlling video games and computer use rather than completely abstaining from it.

If you or someone that you know is struggling with a substance use disorder and a co-occurring video game addiction, The Recovery Village can help. Representatives that specialize in addiction can be reached at 352.771.2700 and can help you find a treatment program that is right for you. Facilities are located across the United States.

  • SourcesAmerican Academy of Pediatrics. “Video Gaming Can Lead to Mental Health Problems.” January 17, 2011.  Accessed June 4, “Alarming Video Game Addiction Statistics.” 2019.  Accessed May 27, “The Strong Relationship Between Social Anxiety Disorder and Your Video Game Avatar.” July 2, 2017.  Accessed June 4, 2019. Game Quitters. “How Many People Are Addicted to Playing Video Games?”  August 14, 2018.  Accessed May 27, 2019.Healthline. “What Science Says About Video Games and ADHD.”  September 16, 2018.  Accessed May 27, “The Relationship Between Video Games and Anxiety.” April 24, 2019.  Accessed May 27, 2019.Kaiser Family Foundation. Generation M: Media Use in the Lives of 8-18 Year-Olds. Menlo Park, CA: Kaiser Family Foundation, 2005. [Google Scholar]Kietglaiwansiri, Tanyawan and Chonchaiya, Weerasak. “Pattern of video game use in children with attention‐deficit–hyperactivity disorder and typical development.” Japan Pediatric Society, March 23, 2018. Accessed June 20, 2019.Cummings, Hope and Vendewater, Elizabeth. “Relation of Adolescent Video Game Play to Time Spent in Other Activities. ” Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine, January 10, 2018.  Accessed June 4, 2019.Hastings, Erin, et. al. “Young Children’s Video/Computer Game Use: Relations with School Performance and Behavior.”  Issues in Mental Health Nursing, February 18, 2011.  Accessed June 15, 2019.Organization for Autism Research. “How Do Video Games Affect Boys on the Spectrum.” May 1, 2013.  Accessed June 4, 2019.TechAddiction. “Why are Video Games Addictive.” 2015. Accessed May 27, 2019.The Telegraph. “World of Warcraft ‘More Addictive Than Cocaine.’”  February 27, 2009.  Accessed May 27, 2019.Usa Today. “‘This Game is Heroin’ Fortnite Addiction Sending Kids to Gaming Rehab.” December 9, 2018.  Accessed May 27, 2019.Lanier, Liz. “Video Games Could Be a $300 Billion Industry by 2025 (Report).” Variety, May 1, 2019.  Accessed May 27, 2019.WePc. “2019 Video Game Industry Statistics, Trends & Data-The Ultimate List.”  April 27, 2019. Accessed May 27, 2019.Griffiths, Mark. “Video Games and Health.” BMJ, July, 16, 2005. Accessed June 14, 2019.World Health Organization. “Gaming Disorder.” September 2018, Accessed June 20, 2019.

Medical Disclaimer: The Recovery Village aims to improve the quality of life for people struggling with a substance use or mental health disorder with fact-based content about the nature of behavioral health conditions, treatment options and their related outcomes.

We publish material that is researched, cited, edited and reviewed by licensed medical professionals. The information we provide is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

It should not be used in place of the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare provider.

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Video Game Addiction Symptoms: Should I Be Concerned?

The Signs and Effects of Video Game Addiction

Reading Time: 4 minutes

While there is no official diagnosis for video game addiction, those who have suffered the consequences of obsessive gaming believe that this addiction is definitely as real as it gets, and many treatment professionals would have to agree. Video game addiction, though relatively new, has swept in to take over the lives of children and adults, causing undue hardship, hazardous conditions and a wealth of problems for those involved.

Video game addiction symptoms, although not clearly defined as of yet, are beginning to become more and more prevalent in children, teens and adults a.

 An individual who shows even just a few signs of addictive behaviors when it comes to playing video games either online, on television or on a phone should consider seeking professional help.

 Video game addiction is progressive and other addictions, will become more pronounced and difficult to control over time.

Being Preoccupied with Video Games

Your video game addiction symptoms can be managed!

Playing video games occasionally is not necessarily bad for one’s health; in fact, people generally enjoy playing video games.

 However, when playing video games takes over and distorts thinking causing the gamer to become preoccupied with all things related to gaming there is a problem.

 Video game addiction symptoms are often difficult to spot at first sight, but for someone to compulsive think about gaming and to have a disinterest in other activities (especially those which were once considered fun) is a sure sign that help is needed.


any addiction, one of the most common video game addiction symptoms is called tolerance. Tolerance is the perceived need for an individual to play more and more games in order to be satisfied.

 The gamer may make excuses in order to get more game time, he or she may spend hours playing games and as time goes on, the individual will find that he or she spends more and more time playing and less and less time being involved in other activities.

Losing Track of Time

Video game addiction symptoms, the symptoms of other types of addiction, often revolve around the individual’s lack of control when it comes to a particular behavior.

 For an individual who is addicted to video games, there is often a time loss that comes with playing.

 The individual may say he or she will only play for an hour and then wind up playing for 6 hours or he or she may make a commitment to get off the game console or computer in 30 minutes and wind up spending hours playing.

Agitation or Anxiety

For most video game addicts, the symptoms of video game addiction go much deeper than simply being unable to control gaming or to keep track of time.

 Agitation and anxiety are both very common amongst gamers, especially if their gaming time is cut short or if they cannot game at all.

 You may notice that your teen gets mad at you if you make him or her do something besides play video games or that there is anxiety when away from the game console. These are two very common video game addiction symptoms and they are symptoms that can require professional help.

Overspending on Video Games

While overspending on gaming items is not usually a problem for children who do not have control over their money, for adults who suffer from video game addiction, overspending is a common problem.

Many adults who are addicted to video games may spend money that they really don’t have, essentially gambling their money away, on video games.

 Spending bill money, savings or money that is not for recreational use on video games is a sure sign that there is a deeper problem.

Additional Video Game Addiction Symptoms

There are actually many symptoms of video game addiction which may or may not be present in each gamer. For some, the symptoms are mostly emotional while for others the symptoms begin to embark on a physical downfall.

 For instance, many video game addicts will have a lack in caring for themselves and may not eat properly which can lead to various adverse health effects including obesity or weight loss.

Additional video game addiction symptoms include:

  • Lack of interest in school or work
  • Becoming angry at video games or when not allowed to play
  • Suffering from bouts of depression when unable to play
  • Having dreams or uncontrollable thoughts about gaming
  • Downplaying the video game addiction or making excuses
  • Losing control of video game playing
  • Irregular eating habits
  • Headaches
  • Lack of personal hygiene
  • Inability to quit gaming even when you try
  • Eating meals while playing a game or eating very quickly in order to get back to a game
  • Chatting about video games excessively when you cannot play the game
  • Playing video games for more than 8 hours at a time



Are video games and screens an addiction?

The Signs and Effects of Video Game Addiction

By Mayo Clinic Health System staff

In our increasingly digitalized world, where most of us, and even our children, own electronic devices with screens, many parents and adults worry about the impact of screen use for themselves and their children.

There is much controversy over the effects of screen use and exposure to violence in video games.

This year, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) rolled back some of the strict guidelines for screen time, citing that not all time children spend in front of digital devices is negative.

The AAP sought to strike a balance between the increasing dependence on technology and what is healthy for young, developing minds.

Yet, a reason for concern and thoughtful monitoring of screen use remains.

A 2014 study conducted by Zhejiang Normal University in China found that young adults who were addicted to online gaming showed lower volumes of gray and white brain matter than young adults in the control group who were not addicted to online gaming. Lower volumes of gray and white matter in some areas of the brain translates to increased difficulties with decision-making, impulse control and emotion regulation.

In addition, recent studies have found that excessive video game and screen time interferes with sleep, mood and social learning in children and adolescents.

Is screen time damaging?

We’re learning through research that our brains, body and relationships can be damaged while on video games and screens. The action and interaction in video games mimics sensory input that our brains associate with danger. It’s important to understand that our brains react to sensory input whether it’s real or perceived.

How many of us have cried, laughed or been startled in response to the visual, auditory and emotional circumstances of a movie, whether the situation is a gripping drama, entertaining comedy or a horror? The same can be said for the feeling and experience of a car accident or being the victim of a criminal act — our brains perceive the sensory input and, consequently, our bodies react.

Victoria Dunckley, M.D., in her article “This is Your Child's Brain on Video Games,” reports excessive video game use can lead to children’s brains being revved up in a constant state of hyperarousal, where the fight-flight response that perceives danger is too often triggered by exposure to intense stimulation and violence in a video game.

This state of hyperarousal looks different for each individual and can include difficulties with paying attention, managing emotions, controlling impulses, following directions and tolerating frustration. Deficits in expression of compassion, creativity and interest in learning also can be impacted.

For some, the release of the stress hormone cortisol, associated with the fight-flight response, can lead to chronic stress, which has its own symptoms, such as decreased immune function, irritability, depression and unstable blood sugar levels. One consequence is many young children develop a craving for sweets and will snack on them while playing video games.

Compounded with the sedentary nature of the activity of video games, healthy diet and weight are negatively affected.

How can gaming become an addiction?

Hyperarousal also can be triggered by a release of dopamine, the feel-good chemical that’s released in the brain when we experience success or achievement. It’s the same dopamine release process that triggers addiction to video games, screens and chemicals, such as alcohol.

An addiction is defined as an individual’s inability to control use of a substance or behavior in spite of negative consequences and functional impairment in life. Many children and adults who engage in screen/video game use to the exclusion of other normal activities fall dangerously close to meeting this definition.

Dopamine is powerful. It helps sustain interest and attention, which is why it can be so hard for anyone to tear themselves away from a video game or interesting post on .

It’s self-reinforcing — the more interest we experience, the more dopamine is released, and the more attention we direct to the task at hand.

These biological processes can lead to long-term or permanent changes in the brain that require extensive behavioral/medical treatment to reverse.

What can we do?

  • Consult guidelines for screen/video game use, such as those suggested by the AAP or the American Psychological Association.
  • Model healthy use of screens and video games.
  • Monitor your children’s and your quality of screen time.

    Educational programs can be beneficial and increase interest in learning.

  • Develop a good balance of screen/video game use and activities that require in-person social interactions, such as family activities, sports, music education and volunteering in the community.

  • Observe children for behavioral and mood changes associated with screen/video game use and make appropriate adjustments.
  • Create structured times free of screen/video game use, such as during mealtimes, in the mornings and before bedtime.

New technology for productivity, education and entertainment is exciting and has improved our quality of life. But, as with most activities in life, moderation is key.

If you’re concerned about a child or loved one’s use of screen/video game time, consulting a behavioral or addictions specialist can help to determine treatment options.


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