- Article SummaryPrint
- Video Game Statistics
- Signs and Symptoms
- Physical Effects
- Psychological Effects
- Social Effects
- Treatment and Rehabilitation
- Recovery Support
Video game addiction is a serious disorder characterized by excessive game play. Video game addicts have difficulty thinking about activities other than gaming. Video game addiction treatment centers have the resources necessary to help compulsive gamers cope with this disorder. These rehabilitation facilities offer individual counseling, group counseling, and other tools for helping compulsive gamers change their behaviors in a positive way.
Video Game Statistics
As of January 2012, the American Psychological Association does not classify video game addiction as a mental illness. However, experts believe that the signs and symptoms of video game addiction mimic those of compulsive disorders like exercise addiction and sex addiction.
Even when a gamer plays frequently or for long periods of time, there is not necessarily a problem. Video game addiction is when gaming interferes with schoolwork, social activities, hygiene, physical or mental health, or work performance. Video game addiction treatment centers give compulsive gamers an opportunity to break bad gaming habits and replace them with other activities.
The Entertainment Software Association reports that 72 percent of all American households play video games or computer games.
Signs and Symptoms
The major signs and symptoms of video game addiction are similar to those of drug and alcohol addiction. The first sign of addiction is that the need to play games gets stronger over time. When a gamer starts playing, one or two hours might be enough. As with drug and alcohol addiction, gaming addicts become desensitized to the effects of short gaming sessions. They have to play for longer periods or with more intensity as their addiction worsens. The second sign that someone has a problem with video game addiction is that the person becomes irritable, anxious, or miserable when he or she is unable to play games. Video game addiction treatment centers help compulsive gamers deal with video game withdrawal and address the roots of their addiction.
The signs and symptoms of this disorder include the following:
- Significant weight gain or weight loss
- Sleep disruptions
- Mood changes
- Sleep deprivation
- Avoiding friends and family members
- Lying about the time spent playing video games
- Skipping meals
- Poor work performance
- Poor academic performance
Did you know?
The Kaiser Family Foundation estimates that people ages 8 to 18 devote an average of 7 hours and 38 minutes of each day to the use of entertainment media.
Although researchers know what causes substance abuse, the cause of video game addiction is not clear. Some researchers believe that elevated dopamine levels are responsible for this disorder. Dopamine is a neurotransmitter that works in the reward center of the brain. This neurotransmitter is responsible for motor control and the secretion of prolactin, a hormone. Dopamine also plays a role in problem-solving, memory, and attention. Dopamine may contribute to video game addiction because it is released during pleasurable activities such as eating and taking drugs. The brain may associate gaming with increased dopamine levels, making it difficult for a person with this type of addiction to stop his or her compulsive behavior.
Some researchers also believe that video game addiction has a psychological component. They suspect that some compulsive gamers use gaming as a way to escape their problems. Much like an alcoholic drinks to escape emotional pain, video game addicts may use gaming as a way to bury their emotions. Compulsive gamers may also use violent games to work out their aggression. Aggression may trigger the release of dopamine and heighten the effects of video game addiction. The staff members at video game addiction treatment centers use their knowledge and expertise to help compulsive gamers address the psychological aspects of their condition.
The physical effects of too much game play are well-documented. When someone is truly addicted to gaming, he or she may avoid showering or participating in other personal hygiene activities. This addiction also increases the risk for weight gain and compulsive eating. Jennifer Warner of WebMD Health News reports that every hour of video game play may double the risk of obesity in children. This is because, with the exception of games like "Wii Sports" and "Dance Dance Revolution," gaming is a sedentary activity. Gamers may also increase their risk of obesity by eating high-calorie snacks and drinking sodas while they play.
The more time someone spends participating in sedentary activities, the fewer calories they burn. This can lead to the development of metabolic syndrome, a disorder characterized by excess fat around the waist. Metabolic syndrome increases the risk for hypertension, diabetes, and other serious medical problems. It may also cause hormonal changes in women, leading to the growth of facial hair and disruption of the menstrual cycle.
The Center for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that 30 million American adults are obese. Obesity increases the risk of type 2 diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure, and stroke.
Playing video games for long periods of time can also increase the risk for injury. The American Physical Therapy Association uses the term "video gamer's thumb" to describe one of the physical effects of excessive video game play. Repeatedly pressing the buttons on a video game controller may cause swelling of the thumb and cause long-term problems with the hands and arms. The following are just some of the symptoms associated with this problem.
- Burning and tingling
Prolonged stress on the ligaments, tendons, and nerves of the hands, wrists, and arms may lead to bursitis and tendonitis. Bursitis is an inflammatory condition that affects the fluid-filled sacs that lie between the skin and the tendons or between bones and tendons. These sacs reduce friction and aid in movement. Bursitis causes swelling of the joint, stiffness when moving the joint, and tenderness when you press around the joint. Some people also develop redness of the skin covering the affected joint. If someone with bursitis does not cut back on excessive gaming, the condition may become a chronic problem.
Tendonitis is inflammation that affects the tendons, which are cords that attach the muscles to the bones. Depending on where the inflammation is located, tendonitis may be called pitcher's shoulder, tennis elbow, or golfer's elbow. This condition causes pain, mild swelling, and tenderness around the affected tendon. Without proper treatment, the affected tendon may rupture. This is a serious complication that requires surgical intervention. Without proper treatment, tendonitis may cause serious pain and loss of mobility in the affected area. Tendonitis may also cause partial disability, making it difficult to engage in physical activity.
"Excessive gaming may also contribute to the development of carpal tunnel syndrome, a repetitive stress disorder that develops due to compression of the median nerve. "Excessive gaming may also contribute to the development of carpal tunnel syndrome, a repetitive stress disorder that develops due to compression of the median nerve. This nerve runs through the forearm and the palm of the hand, so excessive video game play can cause this type of nerve compression. Because the median nerve controls sensation in some parts of the hands, carpal tunnel syndrome causes numbness, pain, and tingling in the hand and wrist. While rehabilitation is not a cure for these problems, the staff members at video game addiction treatment centers can provide referrals for those suffering from the physical effects of their addiction.
The University of Maryland Medical Center estimates that three percent of women and two percent of men may develop carpal tunnel syndrome in their lifetimes.
"...some people do develop aggression as a complication of video game addiction. "The psychological effects of video game addiction are just as harmful as the physical effects. One of the biggest debates in the gaming world is whether playing violent video games causes increased violent behavior. Researchers have found conflicting results during controlled studies, but it is clear that some people do develop aggression as a complication of video game addiction. This is especially true when a concerned family member or friend tries to convince the compulsive gamer to stop playing. This may cause agitation, anxiety, aggression, and other emotional changes.
Sleep deprivation has several psychological effects on compulsive gamers. Hormones help control the normal sleep-awake cycle. One of the most important hormones responsible for normal sleep is melatonin. The pineal gland produces melatonin in response to biological and environmental cues. When a compulsive gamer avoids sleep in order to play video games, the pineal gland does not produce melatonin at the right times. This can lead to significant disruptions in the normal sleep cycle.
Chronic sleep deprivation leads to decreased reaction times, difficulty paying attention, inability to concentrate, loss of motivation, symptoms of depression, mood swings, anxiety, irritability, forgetfulness, and poor judgment. Poor judgment and an inability to concentrate are a dangerous combination. This is why sleep deprivation leads to more than 100,000 motor vehicle accidents each year, as reported by the National Sleep Foundation.
Video game addiction has significant effects on a compulsive gamer's social life. Some compulsive gamers avoid their friends and family members because they do not want to hear that they play video games too much. Excessive gaming cuts into time that could be spent dating, socializing, and forming new friendships. This activity is extremely isolating, as some video game addicts prefer to play alone. This allows them to maintain a specific gaming routine without having to account for the playing habits of other people. Romantic relationships may not survive video game addiction because the romantic partner may feel neglected or unappreciated. To learn more about how video game addiction treatment centers can help compulsive gamers repair broken relationships, call our confidential helpline at 1-800-928-9139.
Poor work performance and poor academic performance can further isolate compulsive gamers from their peers. While classmates are celebrating good grades, gaming addicts are thinking about the next time they can play video games. Adult video game addicts may have difficulty participating in office social activities and performing their duties with an acceptable level of competence. They may even call in sick to work just so they have more time to play their video games. If addiction is not addressed in a timely manner, compulsive gamers may lose their jobs or receive poor performance reviews. This has a significant impact on earning ability and job satisfaction.
Treatment and Rehabilitation
Treatment for video game addiction is similar to the treatments used for other types of addiction. Counseling and behavior modification are two of the most important components of a compulsive gaming rehabilitation program. Individual counseling helps compulsive gamers address their behavior and motivates them to work toward reducing their compulsions to play. Family therapy helps compulsive gamers address family issues that may be contributing to their addiction. The goal of these therapy sessions is to help the gamer learn to cope with his or her addiction and come up with positive activities to replace excessive gaming. Some treatment centers include psycho-pharmacology in the treatment protocol for video game addiction. This refers to the use of prescription medications to control compulsive behaviors.
Counseling professionals stress the importance of a supportive environment for those recovering from video game addiction. Making disparaging marks about a compulsive gamer only compels the person to spend more time playing video games. Even when loved ones voice their opinions out of concern for the video game addict, it can do more harm than good. Fortunately, treatment for this addiction is available, so family members can voice their support by helping a compulsive gamer find a rehabilitation center whenever he or she is ready to get help.
To learn more about how rehabilitation can reduce the negative effects of compulsive gaming, call our free and confidential national hotline at 1-800-928-9139. We offer free information about video game addiction treatment centers 24 hours per day, seven days per week.