With the rise of streaming platforms — like Twitch, GeForce Now and TikTok — more people are grabbing a controller to play video games online. 

Whether it’s racing, sports, fantasy or adventure titles, there’s something for everyone. Regardless of age or gender, people love participating in virtual gaming. However, it’s necessary to consider the occasionally adverse effects that come with too much gaming.

It’s no secret that too much of anything can be a bad thing, and excessive gaming is no exception. By 2023, it’s anticipated that there will be over 3 billion gamers across the globe. Within that population, some gamers will experience symptoms of a gaming addiction.

Let’s go over some facts about gaming and gaming addiction. We’ll also explore the side effects of gaming addiction and discuss the available treatment options for those struggling to put the controller down.

Fast Facts on Gaming Addiction

Before we discuss common signs of gaming addiction, here are some facts worth noting:

  • Gaming addiction was included in the 11th revision of the World Health Organization’s (WHO) International Classification of Diseases (ICD) in 2018.
  • The addiction is also referred to as Gaming Disorder.
  • Gaming addiction is considered a form of internet or computer addiction.
  • Some 12% of boys and 6-7% of girls are addicted to gaming.

Parents may not think their children are gaming addicts. However, individuals must meet specific criteria for their gameplay to be considered an addiction.

Video games now are incredibly engaging and serve as an escape from reality. It’s easy for anyone, especially children, to become transfixed in a game and tune out the rest of the world.

With more kids spending the majority of their free time on screens or social media, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that gaming addiction is serious. A study by Pew Research Center found that 16% of U.S. adults who’ve experienced some form of harassment online said it occurred on a gaming platform.

Although gaming is meant to be a form of entertainment, there’s a darker side we must acknowledge. Children are vulnerable to hearing or seeing explicit language, gore, and inappropriate sexual material, just like when browsing the web.

Parents and gamers alike should know the warning signs of gaming addiction. If it’s caught early on, gamers are less likely to become addicted.

Signs and Symptoms of a Video Game Addiction

Whether you’re an avid gamer or a concerned parent, knowing the signs and symptoms of gaming addictions will better equip you to seek treatment for yourself or your child. Here are the common signs of gaming addiction to look out for:

  • Fixation with games
  • Anxiety, sadness, or irritability due to a lack of gaming
  • Increased tolerance, meaning it takes more gaming to satisfy the associated urges
  • Inability to stop gaming
  • Decreased interest in other free-time activities
  • Sleep issues
  • Gaming to relieve negative feelings

Although you can game on electronic devices like an Xbox, PlayStation, or Switch, most gamers who suffer from a video game addiction are playing on the internet.

A study performed by the American Psychological Association found that 10% of adolescents experience an increase in gaming symptoms over a six-year period. So, although it’s not guaranteed young teenagers will develop a gaming addiction, it’s still a cause for concern.

If five or more of these symptoms are present in a gamer for more than a year, it’s more than likely they have a gaming addiction.

Treatment for Gaming Addiction

Luckily, there are options available for individuals experiencing the symptoms of a severe gaming addiction. Like any addiction, it’s vital to utilize treatment options early on to prevent it from getting out of control.

Here are some treatment options to seek out if you or someone close to you is struggling with a gaming addiction:

  • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)
  • Group therapy
  • Family or marriage counseling
  • Inpatient treatment
  • Outpatient treatment
  • Partial hospitalization programs (PHPs)

It’s also possible there is a co-occurring mental health disorder in play. For example, anxiety, depression, and other psychiatric conditions can play a significant role in the severity of gaming addiction.

It’s important to acknowledge and treat these types of conditions first, whether that’s seeking out a licensed therapist or starting on medication. Be sure to identify and manage any underlying issues that may be contributing to someone’s gaming addiction.

Supporting Gamers Everywhere

Addiction to video games can lead to significant lifestyle changes, such as losing a job, damaging close relationships, and an overall decrease in mental and physical well-being.

When you’re aware of the warning signs of gaming addiction, using prevention and treatment options will help keep the urge to game at bay. And remember that treating a video game addiction like any other addiction is essential for recovery.