Video games have evolved tremendously since the days of Pong and Space Invaders in the 1970s. They’re a favorite pastime of kids, teens, and adults of all ages, and it’s not hard to see why; you can fully immerse yourself in another world and resume another identity as you challenge your brain and let your imagination run wild.

However, studies suggest that, much like drugs and alcohol, gaming can quickly become an addictive habit under certain circumstances. So, at what point do video games to turn from a fun hobby into an addiction, and what can be done to treat gaming addiction and prevent it from happening in the first place?

[H2] Video Games: Addiction or Impulse-Control Disorder?

There has been much debate over whether video game addiction is actually an addiction or simply an impulse-control disorder (ICD), the latter of which is characterized by impulsiveness and inability to resist an urge. The distinction can be drawn when a strong, compulsive desire to play turns into a need to play and begins to take precedence over other aspects of normal life.

Although video game addiction is not recognized as an addictive disorder by the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, the World Health Organization has recently declared that it is, in fact, a mental health disorder when “a pattern of persistent or recurrent gaming behavior” takes over one’s life. With 97% of teenage boys and 83% of girls playing video games in the U.S., this is a startling proclamation.

[H2] What Elements Make Video Games Addictive?

Even though gamers can sharpen their cognitive skills and learn to work collaboratively while playing a video game, the feeling of winning or leveling up releases dopamine, the happy chemical in the brain responsible for giving you a rush. Dopamine release is the same factor that causes many to become addicted to drugs and alcohol and is the motivation for gamers to continue playing for hours.

Those with pre-existing mental health disorders have a greater risk of developing an addiction to video games. For example, those struggling with depression may turn to video games as a way of avoiding their emotions. They can escape their own reality and get lost in a virtual one.

[H2] How Can Gaming Addiction Be Spotted?

The side-effects of video game addiction are very similar to the side-effects of most other addictions. Some of them include:

  • Loss of appetite
  • Neglecting hygiene
  • Social withdrawal and isolation
  • Irritability and outbursts when unable to play
  • Insomnia or forgoing sleep to stay up gaming
  • Prioritizing game time over everything else
  • A loss of control over one’s own time management
  • Obsessively playing video games for more than three hours a day
  • Using video games to relieve anxiety, depression, or stress
  • Inability to perform at school or work due to excessive gaming
  • Neglecting friend and family relationships in favor of video games
  • Excessive spending on video games to the point of financial hardship
  • A need to play video games for longer periods of time to feel the same satisfaction

[H2] What Health Risks Are Associated With Gaming Addiction?

While a video game addiction may not seem as serious in comparison to other forms of addiction, this mental disorder prevents gamers from being healthy, well-rounded individuals and comes with health and behavioral risks. It not only gets in the way of gratifying relationships and school or work performance, but it may also:

  • Lead to a sedentary lifestyle of sitting around;
  • Be responsible for seizures or repetitive stress injuries;
  • Cause a person to develop aggressive or violent tendencies;
  • Interfere with an individual’s ability to concentrate; and
  • Prevent social development.

[H2] What Treatment Options Are Available for Gaming Addiction?

video game addiction treatmentThe video game addiction treatment that is most effective depends on the person and the extent of the addiction. While some may benefit from group therapy or family counseling, others may need cognitive behavioral therapy to get extensive help weaning themselves off of their obsessive habits. Those with co-occurring mental disorders, like depression or anxiety, may need antidepressants or other medication to supplement therapy sessions.

[H2] How Can a Gaming Addiction Be Prevented Altogether?

Prevention is always simpler than treatment. Fortunately, video game addiction is easy to avoid.

Whether you’re feeling yourself becoming addicted or you’re starting to see signs in your child, keep gaming under control by setting time limits for playing — and be strict about it. Avoid bringing electronic devices to bed so that you don’t end up playing late at night. Make sure that your daily activities are varied and that you stretch and get enough exercise to avoid becoming too sedentary or developing repetitive stress injuries.

[H2] Find a Recovery Center for Ongoing Support and Treatment

If you feel that you need intervention from qualified therapists who can help you break destructive habits or you just need someone to talk to, Viewpoint Recovery Center is here for you. Rest assured that we keep all calls and inquiries confidential, and our compassionate professionals are ready to help you 24/7. Contact us anytime at (877) 777-5150 or