Video game addiction is an impulse control disorder that is similar to that experienced by those suffering from gambling addiction. The excessive and compulsive game playing impacts negatively on the player’s life on a day to day basis. Perhaps people who are a bit skeptical about the veracity of video game addiction might be excused but the evidence proves that this is indeed a real thing. There are in fact people who are addicted to video games and with corresponding undesirable consequences.
The reason why video game addiction is now recognized is because of the broader definition of the term, addiction. Prior to recent times, it only referred to cases where some sort of substance was involved and was being abused. But now, things that can cause an addictive behavior are being studied and categorized as addictions.
Video Game Addiction Symptoms
What are the symptoms of video game addiction?
- Preoccupation with video games
- Spending too much time playing video games
- Less efficient at work or school
- Becoming less sociable away from the computer
- Unable to control playing habits
- Lying about how much time is spent playing video games
- Playing video games to escape from problems
Whilst many parents would like to think their kids are addicted to video games, not everyone who plays a lot of video games is actually addicted to it. Furthermore, not only teenagers are active players of video games. A big chunk of the percentage include adults who are over 30 years old. Addiction can be diagnosed after some characteristics become apparent. Some of these traits include:
- Being constantly preoccupied with thinking about video games even while busy with other activities.
- Spending inordinate amounts of time playing video games and sometimes becoming sleep deprived in the process.
- Becoming less efficient at work or school.
- Becoming less inclined to socialize except via online means.
- Becoming depressed, anxious or irritable after having gone a stretch of time without playing video games.
- Repeated attempts and failures to reduce playing video games so much.
- Being evasive and telling lies to family, friends and people in authority in a bid to try and conceal just how much time is spent playing video games.
- Employing playing video games as an outlet for real life problems.
Being more comfortable in the virtual reality of video games more than actual reality.
How many people are addicted to video games?
Almost three-quarters of American households play video games and almost 9% of the participants showed signs of video game addiction. Studies conducted from 2007-2009 indicate that as many as 12% of participants have some level of video game addiction.
What are the effects of video game addiction?
The effects of video game addiction can include:
- Weight gain due to inactivity
- Bad posture
- Delusions and irrational behavior
Video Game Addiction Statistics
Some of these facts and figures may be surprising, even alarming, to most people because addiction to video games is not something that is widely recognized. In fact, it has only recently started to be seriously reckoned with in the scientific community. The easy availability of devices used for gaming such as mobile phones, game consoles, PCs and even smart TVs has made gaming available to virtually everyone at all times. These people vary widely and include children, teenagers, young adults, middle-aged people, and even older people sometimes. The gaming industry has become so huge that it is now a multi-billion dollar business and they are continually exploiting ways to get more people hooked on their product.
Here are some of the statistics that show how pervading video game addiction really is.
- Over the course of a week, video games are played an average of 20 hours.
- Almost three-quarters of American households play video games.
- A study revealed that almost 9% of the participants showed signs of video game addiction and about 4% of them exhibited extreme usage of video games as they played for an average of 50 hours in a week.
- Different studies using different parameters to define video game addiction concluded in 2007, 2008 and 2009 classified 12%, 6% and 3% respectively of their participants as being addicted to video games.
- Video games activate the same regions of the brain of video game addicts as those activated when drug and alcohol addicts are in proximity to drugs and alcohol.
- Young males are more susceptible to video game addiction than females.
- Addiction to video games correlates strongly to deficiencies in managing relationships, a strong need for intellectual validation and a thrill-seeking mentality.
- Online role-playing games are chiefly responsible for video game addiction.
Clinical Diagnosis of Video Game Addiction
Video game addiction studies commenced as far back as 1983 although the methods used were less empirical than desirable for scientific inquiry. More recently, research into this compulsive disorder has yielded results. 20 odd years of research culminated into video game addiction being officially recognized by the American Psychiatry Association as a condition that should be addressed by researchers and clinicians. It has since been included in the updated version of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual for Mental Disorders (DSM-5) for the first time in the same category where other disorders like gambling addiction can also be found. Video game addiction is officially termed as Internet gaming disorder.
The definition of video game addiction offered in the manual is: “persistent and recurrent use of the Internet to engage in games, often with other players, leading to clinically significant impairment or distress as indicated by five (or more) [criteria] in a 12-month period.”
This classification offers some benefits to the individual suffering from this addiction and to the society at large. Knowing that this condition is an actual mental disorder will encourage people suffering from it, or their guardians, to seek medical help. Furthermore, this official categorization is an incentive for health care providers and health insurance companies to offer appropriate coverage. Lastly, the recognition of this disorder will help to soften public prejudice against people that are video game addicts as they understand better that they are not fully in control of their actions.
Effects of Video Game Addiction
The cons from video game addiction are numerous, especially when compared to the relatively few pros. The only advantages of playing a lot of video games are a heightened imagination and perhaps improved hand-eye coordination. These are not close to being able to match the overwhelmingly negative effects of video game addiction. Most of the symptoms of video game addiction translate directly as the negative effects. However, there are some effects which may be even longer lasting and more dangerous.
People addicted to video games usually suffer from other conditions such as:
- Weight gain: Addicts usually spend long stretches of time sitting in one spot. They also engage in binge eating and drinking while playing their games and this is disastrous for their health.
- Bad posture: Another resulting condition from overuse of video games. It is not uncommon for hardcore gamers to stay in awkward positions for long stretches of time which may permanently alter their bone structure.
- Delusions: Addicts have been known to get so engrossed in a game that they can no longer separate it from reality. The line between make believe and reality starts to blur for them. They sometimes think their avatar is their real self and behave in irrational ways in real life, sometimes hurting themselves and/or others in the process.
Video Game Addiction Treatment
Video game addicts suffer from all the typical withdrawal symptoms such as anger, depression, boredom, loneliness, mood swings and anxiety whenever they try to abstain from the games. The addiction results in a lot of physical discomfort and various medical complications such as dry eyes, aches, carpal tunnel syndrome so it is advised that people consult certified addictions counselors who are well versed in the treatment of video game addiction.
The counselors carry out an assessment in determining the extent of treatment that is applicable to the addict. Several programs such as wilderness therapy and therapeutic boarding schools have also proved effective in helping teenagers overcome video game addiction. In these places, the video game addicts are separated from their games and devices that make gaming possible.
They are forced to interact with the real environment around them rather than the virtual reality that they have conditioned themselves to over time. They learn to interact with other people better and improve their social skills. The physical activities also improve their confidence and provides a different outlet for their restlessness and curiosity.
This activity can reset their appreciation of the real and help them to realize how fake gaming really is. A process of disassociation begins and after a while, the addict can recover and have more control over the addiction.
Because the devices that video game addicts use are a normal part of everyone’s daily life, the objective of their treatment is not to completely eradicate the use of these devices but rather to help them learn how to use them responsibly. It is similar to the way a food addict has to learn to control his/her diet but of course, not completely ceasing to eat.