Everything You Need to Know About Gaming Addiction

Santa Barbara Addiction Treatment

What is gaming disorder?

The World Health Organization recently announced that it is adding gaming disorder to the International Classification of Diseases. According to the 11th Revision of the International Classification of Diseases (ICD-11), gaming disorder is defined as “a pattern of gaming behavior characterized by impaired control over gaming, increasing priority given to gaming over other activities to the extent that gaming takes precedence over other interests and daily activities, and continuation or escalation of gaming despite the occurrence of negative consequences”. For an individual to be diagnosed with gaming disorder, their gaming behavior must result in impaired daily functioning for at least a year.

Who is affected by gaming disorder?

Gaming addiction is an impulse control disorder whereby the individual is obsessed with playing video games. Anyone can be affected by gaming disorder, as addiction does not discriminate.  41% of video game users admit that they use the games as an escape from the real world, and researchers describe 7% of these individuals as “dependent” upon video games to sustain or modify their moods (Hussain 2009). The chances of developing a gaming addiction depends upon certain elements, such as the curiosity of the player, rewards for playing, obligation to a team, and sense of belonging to an online community (Hsu 2009). It is interesting to note that online role-playing games are more likely to result in gaming addiction than other genres of games (Van Rooji 2010). Moreover, individuals with elevated levels of aggression, neuroticism, and anxiety appear to be at a higher risk for gaming addiction (Mehroof 2010). Other factors that may increase the likelihood that an individual will develop a gaming addiction include low self-esteem, poor role models at home, poor time management, the availability of the game, and psychological conditions, such as ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder). Males are also more prone than females to develop a gaming addiction (Griffiths 2008). Gaming addiction is not limited to adolescents; adults too suffer from isolated gaming obsessions to a wide genre of computer games. Games typically are rated to categorize their appropriate target age range. For example, E stands for everyone; E 10+ means that the content is suitable for individuals ages 10 and up; T stands for teen; M means that the content is suitable for individuals ages 17 and up; and finally, A stands for adults only. In many cases with adults, porn and gaming addiction go hand-in-hand. 

What are the signs of gaming disorder?

Someone who spends a few hours playing a new game may not struggle with a gaming disorder. Experts have therefore distinguished the following symptoms which may indicate an unhealthy obsession with gaming:

  • Lying about the amount of time spent playing a video game, or lying in order to play video games.

  • Using video games to avoid personal or interpersonal problems.

  • Inability to concentrate when not playing video games due to obsessive game-related thinking.

  • Feelings of irritability or restlessness when the video game is made unavailable.

  • Negligence of personal hygiene due to obsessive video gaming.

  • Quitting other activities of interest to pursue gaming.

  • Isolation from others to spend more time gaming.

  • Fatigue, carpal tunnel syndrome, or migraines due to constant gaming.

How is gaming disorder treated?

Video game addiction can be treated in a number of ways, such as counseling, rehab, and anti-depressants . The most common form of treatment for video game addiction is cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). Much like other addictions, the treatment of video game addiction begins with eliminating the addictive element from an individual’s life. Thus, gaming addiction rehab centers and outpatient programs prohibit video game use while typically providing a therapeutic approach to help individuals unravel the root of their addictions. Obsessive video gaming is usually the symptom of an underlying need to escape. It can also be used as a avoidance mechanism to avert from starting more difficult tasks.

There are a number of video game addiction treatment centers in existence. Recovery Fusion Santa Barbara Addiction Treatment recently visited ReSTART Life, located in the Pacific Northwest just east of Seattle, Washington. ReSTART offers an adolescent program for individuals 13-18 years of age, as well as an adult program for individuals 18-30 years of age. This program focuses on helping the individual rediscover passions outside of the technology realm. It’s location on the secluded Serenity Mountain makes it the perfect place to reconnect with nature. Cottonwood Tucson is a rehabilitation center that also has a gaming addiction focus. Computer Addiction Treatment Program, located in Lake Forest, California also offers rehabilitation from technology addiction. Family Bootcamp in Utah offers a five day intensive wilderness experience for families that are not ready to pale their teen in a long-term residential program but want help learning to manage problematic behaviors. Forte Strong offers a gaming addiction program in Saint George, Utah specifically geared toward helping "failure to launch" male adolescents gain independent living skills and confidence.

Since gaming disorder is recognized as a "Condition for Further Study" by the DSM-5, rehabilitation options are more limited than in the substance abuse realm. Nonetheless, there are a number of rehabs, outpatient programs, and therapists that specialize in the treatment of such obsessions. Recovery Fusion Santa Barbara Addiction Treatment works with individuals and families affected by gaming disorder to navigate appropriate courses of action. For more information, please give us a call at (805)689-1256.

How serious is gaming disorder?

Gaming addiction can run from very mild to severe, depending on how isolated the individual is and how long the gaming obsession has perpetuated. Gaming addiction, in some cases, may hinder an individual's social development; thus, it is important to address the issue as soon as possible. Furthermore, since gaming addiction is typically only the symptom of an underlying need to escape, if left untreated, the obsession could potentially manifest itself in other ways, such as gambling or sex addiction, throughout an individual's life. Some cases may require only a mild intervention, while others may require an inpatient treatment program. Each situation will vary case-by-case, which is why it is important to talk to an Independent Treatment Placement Specialist before making such a decision. The good news is that, according to the World Health Organization, gaming disorder affects only a small proportion of people who engage in gaming activities.

2018: WHO declared that "gaming disorder" will be added to the list of International Classification of Diseases.

2018: WHO declared that "gaming disorder" will be added to the list of International Classification of Diseases.