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Is Video Game Addiction Real?

Video and computer game addiction has not been officially sanctioned as a disorder, but growing evidence suggests there is validity to the comparisons some researchers have made between playing video games and drinking alcohol or gambling.

Compulsive video game playing certainly seems to meet the general definitive criteria of an addiction: addictive gamers spend an ever-increasing amount of time playing, usually to the detriment of their personal relationships, job or school performance, and interest in other activities, and when denied or otherwise away from gaming, they experience withdrawal symptoms such as anxiety or irritability.

Online Video Game Addiction

Experts point to underlying social or mental health issues as possible triggers for video game addiction. For example, players who compulsively play a game to feel in control or to avoid aspects of their real lives may be suffering from depression; players who strongly prefer interacting with others on the virtual battlefield or farmland to socializing in real life may have an anxiety disorder.

Video Game Addiction Statistics

  • Studies have shown that close to 10 percent of young people who play video games develop addictive gaming behaviors; numbers are likely similar for adult gamers.
  • Though a causal relationship has not yet been established, a 2010 study of more than 1,300 children found a link between excessive video game playing or television watching and attention problems.

That there might be, in many cases, something more going on than simply an addiction to playing a game is strongly supported by the fact that games with an online component seem to be much more addictive than solitary, self-contained games.

Game applications hosted by social media websites, or desktop/console video games with “live” options, offer the opportunity to play in real time with other people. Though people of any age and either gender can display addictive gaming behavior, the majority of video game addicts are boys and men under 30, and some researchers have noted that these gamers tend to be creative and intelligent but suffer from low self-esteem or difficulties with social interactions.

For these compulsive gamers, the emotional rewards that come from forming social bonds or feeling competitively victorious are likely a significant part of what makes the video games so addictive.

Treatment for Video Game Addiction

If you feel that you or a friend of family member needs video game addiction help, contact a therapist who specializes in treating addiction and/or compulsive behavior. The therapist will likely treat your compulsive video game playing through a kind of behavior-modifying psychotherapy called cognitive behavioral therapy, or CBT. They will also assess whether depression, anxiety or another mental health issue is playing a role in your addiction and adapt your treatment plan accordingly.

Recently, some doctors have also begun treating video game addiction using a detox strategy very similar to the process that drug addicts undergo.

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