• A Closer Look at Gaming Addiction

    A Closer Look at Gaming Addiction

    This past holiday season has put a multitude of video games harbored under the Christmas tree and downloaded onto various electronic devices. Accompanying all these new technological gadgets and gaming systems is a potential unwanted complication, which is the potential for a unique compulsion.

    A new and complicated addiction has begun to take hold into our mainstream culture. Previously unseen in earlier generations, this new abuse is not based on substances, but is related to “gaming.” Over 1.2 people worldwide now play on-line and mobile games and some may be susceptible to addictive behavior [1].

    The world of gaming is being perpetuated by the following:

    • it is easily accessible to all ages, including the very youngest adults
    • games are usually free to download or are reasonably priced
    • the games are remarkably lifelike in appearance, due to the advancements in technology
    • they provide the ability to engage the user both mentally and emotionally
    • programmers actually work to assure the games are addictive, and that the user wants to continually engage in more and more of the activity
    • most games are challenging and offer increased “rewards” for achieving milestones within the game (small “wins” keep the user coming back for more)

    As a result, gaming attracts a wide array of demographics. No longer is the stereotype of this activity a male teenager.

    This same study revealed this data for “gamers” (those involved in the activity):

    Age Group Females Males
    15-24 year olds 47% 54%
    25- 34 year olds 41% 45%
    35-44 year olds 46% 46%
    45+ 41% 37%

    The Addiction

    Frequently, it is the emotional component that leads individuals to become addicted to gaming. Some experts believe these four outward symptoms demonstrate when a person may have a predisposition for becoming overly dependent on playing electronic games:

    1. Feelings of restlessness and/or irritability when they are unable to play
    2. Preoccupation with this online pastime and/or anticipation of their upcoming gaming session
    3. Lying to others regarding the amount of time spent playing
    4. An excuse to escape daily reality

    Similar to substance abuse, gaming addiction can lead to serious issues including

    • isolation from others
    • feelings of depression when not engaged in the activity
    • lack of social interaction
    • unhealthy eating and sleeping habits and more.

    Although gaming addiction is not yet formally recognized as a disorder by the American Medical Association, video game addiction can be just as dangerous as any other negative compulsive behavior.

    And just like substance abuse, severe gaming addiction requires treatment, rehabilitation and a plan for recovery.

    Many alcoholics state that their first step toward sobriety was admitting their addiction. Gaming addicts must also recognize they have a problem in order to move forward.

    There are other similarities. When an alcoholic is in recovery, they must avoid temptation. Regretfully, this may not be as easy for gaming addicts. We all use technology on a regular basis whether at school, work or running a household. If we are constantly operating a computer or tablet, temptation is directly confronting us.

    Next Steps

    Little research has been done on the best treatment and recovery program for gaming addicts and some debate whether gaming should actually be classified as an addiction.

    As this latest obsession grows globally, society will have to determine what forms of treatment programs should be developed to support a healthy lifestyle.

    It is clear that rehabilitation for gaming addicts must include a social component since many people who are constantly focused on technological devices have lost some of the skills to communicate directly with others. These addicted individuals will have to be forced out of their virtual reality and into the true reality of life.


    [1] http://venturebeat.com/2013/11/25/more-than-1-2-billion-people-are-playing-games/


    Audrey Beim holds two advanced degrees from major universities, including a Master’s Degree in Psychology. She has over 20 years of experience in the health, wellness, nutritional and fitness categories and has used her expertise to write articles for media outlets such as Linfield Media and Examiner.com.

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