Everything you Need to Know about Video Game Addiction: Reasons, Symptoms, Treatment.

Oct 24, 2019

Written by: 

Pavel Khoroschutin



Psychologists from different countries compare video game addiction with a sort of epidemic. Children, teenagers, adult men and women – anyone may be affected by this problem. Scientists from Harvard University present warning statistics: 40-80% of people who spend several hours a day playing video games can be diagnosed with at least an early stage of the addiction. [1] The purpose of the following article is to find out how to identify a video game addiction and how to eradicate it.

Table of contents:

  1. What is video game addiction?
  2. Symptoms of video game addiction.
  3. Stages of video game addiction development.
  4. Gaming disorder test: are you a gaming addict?
  5. Reasons for the addiction.
  6. Distinctive features of the addiction among children, teenagers and adults.
  7. Prevention of video game addiction.
  8. How to treat gaming disorder.

What is video game addiction?

Video game addiction is an obsessive fascination with PC, mobile phone and tablet games. Whereas 10-15 years ago a widespread interest in some arcade games and shooters was considered a harmless hobby, nowadays gaming disorder is compared with drug and tobacco smoking addiction.

In 2018 the World Health Organization included this type of addiction in the 11th revision of the International Statistical Classification of Diseases and Related Health Problems (ICD-11). The use and enforcement of the document is expected to start in 2022, however even now, basing their judgement on certain symptoms, specialists can diagnose children and adults with video game addiction. A gamer with an addiction developed to the personal computer and gadgets has only one interest in life – gaming. Other spheres of life become less important. Teenagers are “bothered” by their parents and school assignments, while adults are disturbed by their kids, work and any responsibilities that need to be taken care of. According to scientists, the memory of individuals who suffer from video game addiction becomes worse and their self-esteem becomes lower. They also behave in an apathetic way and lead a passive lifestyle. A strong craving for gaming may undermine the professional life of a person and he/she may be involved in gaming during working hours showing no interest in urgent tasks and matters. [2]

Spending long hours in front of a computer may affect not only the mental health of people, but also their physical condition. Obsessive gamers often suffer from poor eyesight, weight, and spine problems. [2]


Yet the consequences of video game addiction may be more serious than “ruined” eyesight. For example, in 2005 a girl in China died from exhaustion after spending several days playing a famous online game without having breaks for meals and sleep. This case has given rise to a series of talks in China about the necessity to properly treat children and adults who suffer from video game addiction. [1]

Symptoms of video game addiction

German scientists conducted an interesting experiment intending to find out which emotions are experienced by gamers who spend a significant part of their day playing video games. Specialists demonstrated screenshots of their favorite games to 20 participants. The reaction of those tested turned out to be similar to those reactions expressed by alcohol and drug addicted people when they see the object of their obsession. That is the reason why doctors share the opinion that the treatment of video game addiction is an extremely difficult process unless it is done under the supervision of specialists. [1]

What symptoms help to identify a video game addiction? People who suffer from this disorder tend to behave in the following way:


  • They continue gaming even if they understand the negative effects of their addiction.
  • They show irritation, anger, and open aggression when someone distracts them from gaming.
  • They refuse to be involved in any sort of entertainment other than playing video games.
  • They isolate themselves from social contact.
  • They ignore the rules of personal hygiene, as they do not want to waste their time on anything other than gaming.
  • They lose any sense of time when they play video games. [2]

Stages of video game addiction development

While ICD-11 has not been enforced yet it is impossible to talk about the scaling of video game addiction into certain stages of development. Specialists in this sphere continue to study the issue by examining the medical history of patients and by selecting the most efficient methods of treating children and adults who suffer from gaming addiction.

According to the opinions of numerous psychologists, gaming addiction, as well as other types of psychological addictions, develops gradually through the following stages:


  • The initial stage looks like a slight fascination. A person has just started to get involved in gaming and he/she gradually begins to enjoy it. A gamer has a wonderful time, makes friends online and is delighted with victories in the games – all these activities grant some positive emotions to the gamer.
  • The next stage looks like a serious fascination. At this stage, a person plays video games not only from time to time, but regularly. It becomes easy to sacrifice certain activities to save some time for gaming.
  • When gaming occupies the top spot on a person’s pyramid of values, it is possible to conclude that the person has a full-scale video game addiction. [3]

Irresponsibility and laziness as a norm of life: is it possible to change for the better? How to learn to be more responsible and conscious? Laziness as a norm of life.

Gaming disorder test: are you a gaming addict?

Symptoms of video game addiction may be more expressive or less visible, but the main sign of gaming disorder is not even the amount of time spent in front of the computer. It is vital to understand what a person feels when he or she steps into a virtual world.

Andrew V. Kostlyarov, in his book “Other Drugs”, presents a simple test, which helps to identify if you or your family members have video game addiction. Here is a set of questions. You need to give an answer “yes” or “no” For each positive answer, you will get 1 point.

1.   Do you feel irritation or anxiety when you need to finish the game?

2.   Do you sacrifice the time that you used to spend with your family and friends to play video games?

3.   Are you in a good mood only when you are involved in gaming?

4.   Do you usually feel emptiness and frustration in real life?

5.   Do you experience lack of sleep, as you stay awake until late at night playing video games?

6.   Do you consider gaming the best way of relieving stress?

7.   Do you often have headaches after playing video games?

8.   Do you often experience appetite disorders after playing video games?

9.   Do you often start to completely ignore external stimuli, while playing video games?

10.                Have your relationships with your family and friends become worse because they express their disapproval of your favorite free time activity?


If you have five or more points in total, you should probably reconsider the amount of time that you spend playing online video games. There is a probability that you are forming an addiction and you should pay attention to this problem. [4]

Reasons for the addiction

In order to treat gaming addiction it is vital to understand the exact factors which cause an overwhelming desire to place yourself in front of the computer and plunge into the virtual world. Here are the commonly accepted possible reasons for video game addiction:

  • the absence of bright and interesting moments in the real life of a person;
  • insecurity and lack of self-confidence;
  • desire to escape from problems;
  • loneliness;
  • boredom and absence of goals in life. [2]


However, it is necessary to keep in mind that addiction starts to develop when an individual begins to demonstrate a predictable behavioral pattern. In simple words, when a person becomes used to finding a shelter from his/her numerous problems in a video game.

Distinctive features of the addiction among children, teenagers, and adults

One might think that only children are interested in video games. However, even adults become compulsive gamers. Each age group has its own distinctive features.

Children’s gaming disorder

Psychologists consider that parents are the ones who must be blamed for the development of video game addiction in children below the age of 10. Trying to occupy their children, parents may suggest they play a computer or tablet game for a while. As a result, this becomes the behavioral pattern for the child. Other negative factors include the peculiarities of a child’s personality (unsociability, shyness), problems in the family, and an excessive amount of free time. [2]

Finding a suitable method to train a child not to get obsessively involved in gaming may require more time than for an adult. Video game addiction in this age group is characterized by a difficult developmental process. [2]

Teenagers’ gaming disorder

During puberty, children tend to form numerous insecurities. According to psychologists, these are the main reasons for the development of the addiction among teenagers between the ages of 11 and 17. For them, video games become a distraction instrument that helps them to feel their importance and to forget urgent problems.

During the teenage period, children are still in the process of the active development of their personalities so video game addiction can have serious consequences. After escaping from reality into the virtual world a teenager forgets about studying and loses any ambitions. This can lead to a rapid degradation of personality. [2]

Adults’ gaming disorder

It is considered that among adults, men are more likely to be affected by video game addiction. It is more common for men not to talk about their problems and feelings, so  the virtual world may allow them to feel stronger, braver, and more successful.[2]


According to some psychologists, married men play these games because of their dissatisfaction with family life. Of course, compulsive gaming does not solve family problems and even make them worse. 

Prevention of video game addiction

Prevention of video game addiction is vitally important when talking about children and teenagers.

Introducing a strict ban does not equate to treating video game addiction. It is recommended that parents spend more time with their children and think about hobbies and activities which may be interesting for the youngster. When children have minimal amount of time for “doing nothing”, they will not be able to play video games endlessly.

If you have noticed the first signs of gaming disorder in your child, you should pay immediate attention to the problem and, for instance, ask the advice of a psychologist.

How to treat gaming disorder

The first and the most difficult step towards treating video game addiction is realizing and accepting the problem. Only clear goals and self-control will help to find a solution. People who have the addiction often continue to persuade themselves that gaming is merely entertainment and that they can stop any time they want to.

To get rid of video game addiction psychologists recommend the following:

  1. Find other sources of positive emotion. It can be a sport or any other hobby – anything that brings pleasure.
  2. Find serious motivation. A person who suffers from the addiction should somehow motivate him/herself to give up the destructive habit. Perhaps, a loved one could demonstrate the fact that video games keep people away from the joys of life, such as communication with friends and family, career achievements, etc.
  3. Suppress the desire to play. Treatment of video game addiction will require a lot of time. It is essential to learn how to say “no” to yourself when you feel an urgent craving for gaming. Meditation and hobbies can help with this. On the other hand, coding against video game addiction is not suitable for everyone.
  4. Organize your daily schedule in the most efficient manner. If an addicted person is busy with important tasks during the whole day, there will be little time for gaming. [2]

If you are not able to find a solution for your video game addiction, it is advisable to ask a psychologist for help. The 7Spsy training on techniques of behavior modification has demonstrated a high degree of effectiveness in dealing with negative habits. This is a patented method of behavioral psychology based on the theories of Ivan P. Pavlov, Burrhus F. Skinner, Alexei A. Ukhtomsky and others.

The completion of the training will help to change an unhealthy model of behavior – in this case a craving for video games – which does not allow you to enjoy real life. After working through negative settings and substituting them for the positive, you will find the strength and enthusiasm to give up the obsession, which occupies all your free time. Having strengthened your will power and having found the motivation, you will be successful in using a quick and smooth way to get rid of video game addiction. You will acquire an understanding that such games are a poor method of dealing with stress and insecurities.

A course on techniques of behavior modification 7Spsy has been designed for a period of up to 6 weeks. The distant format of the training gives you an opportunity to solve your problem in a place that is comfortable for you. A psychologist provides consultations via phone and e-mail, as well as during online chats. Participation in the training is confidential: you need not tell anyone that you are receiving a treatment for video game addiction.

Please remember, the quality of your life is in your hands alone.


Information from this website cannot be used for self-therapy and self-diagnostics. 

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