Gaming Addiction


Gaming has become a way of play and entertainment for many children and youth today. In the age of vast computer advancements, the younger generation is turning to more virtual ways of interacting and playing. The advancements in the gaming sector have also made it impossible to keep the youth and children away from it. While it started, no one ever imagined it would be a cause of worry but as the technology advances and every child has access to a computer or a laptop; the video games become more used to the extent of causing addictive behaviors.

Definitions and guidelines

Rauh (2014) explains that video game addiction is the excessive use of computer or video games. This excessive use interferes with a person’s life. It affects the amount of time they invest in their families, work or school work. Addiction can cause mood swings, isolation from the social scene and a focus on the games.  However, this is yet to be officially recognized as a disorder that can be diagnosed.

Some of the signs that one is addicted to gaming include a person feeling happy when playing their video games but becoming moody when they stop, when family and friends note that one is spending a lot of time playing games, when all one can think about is going back online to play their games instead of focusing on other important issues like school or work and family, and when one can rarely get enough sleep as they stay awake all time playing video games.

Griffiths (2002) states that games become addictive due to the high scores, beating the game, role playing, discovery, and due to the relationships formed. When a gamer is trying to beat the high scores, then the game can become quite addictive. All a person thinks of is what to do to beat the score. In trying to do so, one may not realize they are slowly getting addicted to the game. Many games have different levels and the players try to reach higher levels and discover different clues. This creates a sense of excitement when one discovers hidden treasures and fortresses. In the process, the gamer does not give much attention to the social life around them. Video games with role playing allow the players to create the characters in the game and have an adventure that is unique to their character. This creates a sense of emotional attachment to their characters and advances their stories to another level which makes it hard to quit. The video games therefore allow the players to have relationships with the characters they create. For some of the youth and children, when they are rejected or bullied socially, they turn to the gaming life as the only place they are accepted. This makes them enjoy gaming even more and leads to addiction.

Kuss & Griffiths (2005) explain that problematic gamers play video games more often than no-problematic ones as a reaction to frustration and anger. They therefore use video gaming for emotional regulation, as a way for them to reduce their negative feelings. However, the blocking out and coping passively with their stressful experiences is a successful short term strategy. From a long term perspective however, it is dysfunctional and may therefore limit the adolescent’s potential to have to have fundamental experiences which are necessary for developing protective ways to cope. Therefore, as the teens and young adults experience more stressors in life, they continue to escape from their realities by using video games and other online activities. This results to a vicious cycle. Teenagers and young adults who suffer from gaming addiction have been found to also suffer from depression, somatization and anxiety. The clinical observations point at the need of assessing excessive online gaming which is potentially pathological in nature.

Physical consequences of addiction to gaming

Addiction to gaming can lead to physical consequences that include carpal tunnel, sleep disturbances, eating irregularities, migraines, backaches and poor personal hygiene. Different levels of addiction will result to different consequences. Chronic addiction will therefore lead to chronic physical consequences.

Carpal tunnel syndrome: This is a syndrome that has been associated with use of computers for a long time. The carpal tunnel syndrome is caused when the main nerve between the forearm and the hand is pressed or squeezed. The carpal tunnel which is the area of the wrist that has nerves and tendons is swollen or irritated. The over use of the computer mouse can cause swelling of this region and so can excessive use of the video game controller.

Migraines: These are headaches which usually begin from one spot and they spread to other regions with increased pain as they progress. The pain in some cases can be very intense to the extent of causing vomiting. Exposure to light and noise can cause excessive pain. Playing video games for extended amounts of time makes the gamer prone to migraines as they need intense concentration which strains the eyes.

Sleep disturbances: This involves all sleep related disorders that include narcolepsy, insomnia, nocturnal myoclonus, parasomnia and sleep apnea. Nocturnal myoclonus involves periodic arm or leg jerks while sleeping. Parasomnia involves sleep talking, sleep walking, night terrors and nightmares.

Eating irregularities: This involves a person being addicted to the game to the extent that they do not have time to eat properly. They do not take balanced regular diets or choose not to eat entirely.

Backaches: Addicted gamers seat in the same position for long periods of time which causes backaches. They can develop soreness or stiffness due to lack of movement which can deteriorate to serious back issues.

Poor personal hygiene: Addiction causes the gamer to take less time in their personal grooming. Personal up keep is not given any attention and the priority it deserves which in turn results to poor kept physical outlook and hygiene.

Addiction to gaming is also associated with violence. Anderson & Bushman (2002) developed the General Aggression Model (GAM) which helps explain the complex relationship between aggressive gamers and violent video games. GAM acknowledges that the gamer’s personality determines largely how they are affected by the violence in the games. GAM refers to three internal facets that include feelings, physiological responses and thoughts that determine a person’s interpretation to violent behavior. Short term effects that were identified in GAM have the most prominent being that violent games change the manner in which gamers interpret and respond to the aggressive acts in the games. Even those who are not inclined to violence respond with a level of increased hostility after they play violent games repeatedly. Long term effects of gaming activities are still being debated on but no long term studies have been conducted yet. Therefore all we have are hypothesis.


Studies by video gaming companies give various figures on the vast addictions in gaming. The director of broadband and gaming Parks Associates state that video game addiction is severe in the Asian countries with South Koreans between 9 and 39, 2.4% of them suffer from game addiction with 10.2% still at the risk of being addicted.

In may 2009, the journal of Psychological science studies done by Douglas Gentile who is an assistant professor as Iowa state university revealed that more than 8 percent of gamers who are aged between 8 years and 18 show signs of addiction to the games. The conclusion by Gentile was drawn from the analysis of a survey conducted in 2007 on 1,178 young people aged between 8 and 18 years. The studies showed that only a little under 90 percent of the respondents reported that they play video games. The boys on average spent around 16 hours a week playing video games while the girls spent an average of nine hours per week. The addicted gamers were reported to play video games for 24 hours in a week which is twice the amount of time spent by a casual player. Addiction and pathological behavior was observed on 8.5 percent of the gamers. The 8.5 percent exhibited six out of the eleven clinical signs of addiction and pathological behavior. A quarter of the sample population interviewed stated that they engage in the games to try and escape real world problems while most of them say that they play instead of doing their homework.

In the United States, of the youth aged 8 to 18 years, 81% of them said that they played video games at least one time in a month. From the sample interviewed, 8.5% was concluded to be clinically addicted to video gaming.

A formal study conducted by Council on Science and Public health in 2005 stated that players of online video games play for over two hours per day. The report indicated that gaming overuse was playing for more than two hours in a day.

In 2006, BBC reported on a lecture that indicated that twelve percent of online gamers who took part in a poll exhibited some addictive behaviors.

DSM-IV Criteria for diagnosis

The diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders gives the symptoms of gaming addiction and other pathological behaviors as:

Preoccupation: The addicted person focuses on the gaming even when they are doing other activities. This causes distraction in the current jobs that they are supposed to be conducting, strain on family, work, school and other issues.

Tolerance: The game addicts need to engage in a lot of the gaming in order to experience some sort of ‘rush’ that is attributed to addiction. They therefore spend more and more time gaming.

Loss of control: The addicts have little control on the desire to play the video games. Even when they want to end their addictive behaviors, they are not able to do it.

Withdrawal: When a person is not able to participate in the gaming activity, they are withdrawn from the world and keep to themselves. They also exhibit anxiety, are irritable and restless.

Escape: The addicts of gaming use it as an escape from all their real life issues and stresses.

Dishonesty: They find themselves lying to their families, friends, teachers, and colleagues on the extent of their gaming activities.

Crime: People who exhibit pathological behaviors which is often the case with drug and alcohol addicts, turn to crime for them to finance their habits. In gaming, serious issues can arise like making bets that push them further into criminal activities.

Social, professional and academic harm: The addicted person’s life is affected socially and in their work places or school. Their actions often cause problems in their areas of work, where they live or at school.

Assessment tools

The most common instrument used to measure addiction is the Problem Video game Playing (PVP) questionnaire developed by Tejeiro and Bersabe in 2002. The questionnaire was presented to act as a quantitative measure and not a diagnostic tool.

The American Psychiatric Association (APA) consolidates scientific work of gaming addiction as it takes to account other eight different measuring tools that are proposed in other studies to come up with the 9 criteria used for analysis.

Cultural issues

The modern culture has influence on the amount of supervision young adults and teens get from their parents and other adults. The adults are on busy schedules and they rarely have enough time to ensure that the children and teens get a balanced social life. Play and catching up with friends and family members is important for the social development of the children. When adults leave the children with their computers and laptops in their rooms, the children turn to gaming which in result becomes addictive. The supervisory role of adults is to ensure that they direct the actions of the children to the right direction. When the adults are rarely home and always busy at work or elsewhere, then children guide themselves and poor choices are made.

The culture of the digital era also affects the addiction rates and in dealing with gaming addiction. When everything is digitized, everything that the teens and the children do is mostly on their computers. Controlling what they do on the computers then becomes hard and they are therefore exposed to gaming which can lead to addiction.

Many parents also report to feel torn between limiting the time children spend on their computers. When a child is socially awkward and is not doing well in any of the social circles, the adults believe that they may be better off spending time with virtual friends. This applies to teens with friends who the parents consider to be bad influence or unnecessary risk takers. To avoid the children falling in the wrong crowds, parents prefer that the teens or children stay home as they can monitor their behavior from there. This becomes hard for the diagnosis and treatment of the gaming addiction. Parents also avoid getting into confrontations and arguments or the cold shoulders given by children when they are instructed to stop using the computer too much. This leads to children stuck on their computers playing games every free time they get.


Griffiths & Meredith (2009) explain that treatment for video game addictions includes wilderness programmes and therapy.

Therapy: video game addiction can result to teens and young adults feeling emotionally dependent on the video games in order for them to attain happiness and joy. There are various forms of therapy that include psychodynamic, behaviorism, cognitive behavioral therapy, family therapy, exercise programs and going cold turkey

Exercise programmes: This involves taking up new forms of exercise which is a great way of taking a person’s mind off video gaming. The gaming addict can therefore focus on something else other than gaming. Exercise is effective as it mimics the motions of the games which the gamer can relate to the game while at the same time keep off the computer. Exercise is also as exciting as gaming and also produces endorphins which assist in countering one of the primary causes of game addiction.

Going cold turkey: This involves replacing gaming with other activities that could be painting, singing, sports or participating in a book club. It is usually difficult at the beginning but with time, the game addict is able to get their minds totally off the video games as they refocus their energies to other activities.

Family therapy: This involves the involvement of the whole family in the therapy sessions. The role of the game addict in the family is assessed and the therapy sessions are structured around that. The family therefore acts as a key to assisting the assist leave their gaming and engage in family routines.

Cognitive behavioral therapy: The cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) assesses the associations and the thought patterns of gaming addicts and tries to change such behaviors. An example is when a gaming addict thinks that they can only be accepted by their online characters and can only make friends online. CBT attempts to change the thinking of such patients and demonstrate to them that what they believe is not the case.

Psychodynamic: This form of treatment looks at other underlying factors that seem unrelated to a person’s gaming addiction but which attribute to the addiction. Such unrelated issues can be unconscious problems and other early memories that affect the social behaviors of an addict which in turn drive them to online gaming. Dealing with the deeper problems is an intensive process which addresses the issues in all angles and in a more effective way.

Behaviorism: This involves interpreting a video game addiction as a strong association that is formed between gaming and gaining happiness and fulfillment in an individual. New associations are created by therapy thus replacing the unhealthy associations.

Wilderness programmes: This involves removing the gaming addict from their normal settings to different environments. It involves going to camps and making tents. The different environments force the addicts to new situations where there are no games and they therefore have to live without the video games.

Peer support: This involves peer support groups that assist addicts towards their recovery and protects their identities. They therefore have an opportunity to attempt to deal with their issues alone without having to involve close family.

In finding solutions, it is advised that parents should monitor the time the teens and the young adults spend on their computers. Playing video games should be made a weekend activity or it should be limited to certain hours and days. Staying active in the different hobbies that the children have is also given as a way of minimizing time spent on the computer. Making relations in the real world a priority is also a key in ensuring that the game addict is engaged in the outside real world.

There are also other ways to treat addiction to gaming through various addiction centers. They advocate for 12 step programs that are usually developed specifically to deal with video game addictions.

Family involvement

Many addicts admit that their gaming addictions ruined their school performances and family relationships. Parents have less time with their kids who stay behind closed doors all day and night. When cautioned to stop they throw tantrums and give their parents cold shoulders. The children are not willing to take part in family events and in the chores. Meeting their cousins and other relatives become a task and they are not interested in knowing and interacting with extended family members. Different family chores assigned to them go undone that could include taking out trash or cleaning the dishes.

The family should offer other alternatives to video games and supervise the young adults and teens in regard to what they do on their computers and the amount of time they spend.


Video gaming is addictive when the young adults and the teens spend a lot of time on their computers. Several issues arise due to the addictions which lead to social ineptness among other things. Families play a big role in the recovery of the addicts. Adults should be responsible for the young adults and teens and should offer supervisory roles often in regard to time spent on their computers. Several options for treatment of gaming addiction are available and should be sort for the addicted. Gaming addiction causes social withdrawal and violent tendencies.



Daria J. Kuss and Mark D. Griffiths (2012), Adolescent online gaming addiction Retrieved from

Griffiths, N. D (2002), Gambling and gaming addictions in adolescence, Oxford: BPS Blackwell

Griffiths, M.D, & Meredith, A,(2009), Videogame addiction and its treatment, Journal of Contemporary Psychotherapy, 39(4), 247-253

Kuss,D.J & Griffiths, M.D (2012), Internet gaming addiction: A systematic review of emphirical research, International Journal of Mental Health and Addiction, in press.doi: 10.1007/s 11469-011-9318-5

Sherry Rauh (2014) Video Gaming Addiction Retrieved from

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