Home page Psychology blog Bad Habits Non-Chemical Addictions Everything you need to know about video game addiction: reasons, symptoms, treatment.

Everything you need to know about video game addiction: reasons, symptoms, treatment.

24.10.2019 Author: Psychologist Pavel Khoroshutin

Psychologists from different countries compare video game addiction with a sort of epidemics. Children, teenagers, adult men and women – anyone may be affected by this problem. Scientists from Harvard University present a 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 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 of 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. Even though 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 World Health Organization included this type of addiction into 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 are able to diagnose children and adults with video game addiction.

A gamer with addiction developed to personal computer and gadgets has the only 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, memory of people who suffer from video game addiction become worse and their self-esteem become lower; they also behave in an apathetic way and lead a passive lifestyle. A stronger craving for gaming may undermine a professional life of a person: he or she may be involved in gaming during working hours showing no interest in urgent tasks and matters. [2]

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

Consequences of video game addiction may be more serious than “ruined” eyesight. For example, in 2005 a girl in China died due to exhaustion. She had spent several days playing a famous online game without having breaks for meals and sleeping. This case has risen a series of talks in China about the necessity to treat children and adults who suffer from video game addiction. [1]

Symptoms of video game addiction

stages of addiction to video games

German scientists have made an interesting experiment intending to find out which emotions are experienced by gamers who spend significant part of the day playing video games. Specialists were demonstrating to 20 tested people the screenshots of their favorite games. The reaction of the tested turned out to be similar to one, which is 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 treatment of video game addiction is extremely difficult process unless it is done under supervision of specialists. [1]

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What symptoms may 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 the sense of time when they play video games. [2]

Stages of video game addiction development

signs of computer addiction

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

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

  • Initial stage looks like slight fascination. A person has just started to get involved in gaming and he or she gradually begins to enjoy it. A gamer spends a wonderful time, makes friends online and is delighted with his or her victories in games – all these activities grant some positive emotions to a gamer.
  • Next stage looks like serious fascination. At this stage, a person plays video games not only from time to time, but regularly. He or she can easily sacrifice certain activities in order to save some time for gaming. 
  • When gaming has occupied the top of a person’s pyramid of values, it is possible to conclude that a person has a full-scale video game addiction. [3]

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 an 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 have 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 have to finish the game?
  2. Do you sacrifice the time that you used to spend with your family and friend 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 sleeping, 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’ve got 5, or more, points in total you should probably reconsider the amount of time that you spend playing cooperative and online video games. There is a probability that you are forming a video game addiction and you should pay attention to this problem. [4]

Reasons of the addiction

addiction to computer games

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

  • absence of bright and interesting moments in 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 a person begins to demonstrate a stable behavioral pattern. In simple words, when a person gets used to finding a shelter from numerous problems in a video game.

Distinctive features of the addiction among children, teenagers and adults

It seems that only children may be 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 developing video game addiction in children below the age of 10. Trying to occupy their children with some activities parents tend to offer the children to play some computer or tablet games for a while. As the result, this becomes a behavioral patter of a child. Other negative factors are peculiarities of a child’s personality (unsociability, shyness), problems in family, and big amount of free time. [2]

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

Teenagers’ gaming disorder

During a period of puberty, children tend to form numerous insecurities. According to psychologists, this is the main reason of development of video game addiction among teenagers at the age of 11-17. For them, video games become a distraction instrument that helps them to feel their importance and to forget their urgent problems.

During teenage period, children are still in the process of active development of their personality, so video game addiction can have serious consequences. Escaping from reality into a virtual world a teenager forgets about studying and loses any ambitions. It 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 a virtual world may allow them to feel stronger, braver and more successful.[2]

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

Prevention of video game addiction

prevention of gambling addiction

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

Introducing a strict ban on all video games does not mean treating video game addiction. It is recommended that parents spend more time with their children and think about a hobby, which may be interesting for a child. When children have minimum amount of time on “doing nothing” they will not be able to play video games for a long time.

If you have noticed the first signs of gaming disorder in your child, you should pay your immediate attention to the problem and, for instance, ask an 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 just an enterntainment and that they can stop the game at any time they want to.

In order to get rid of video game addiction psychologists recommend the following:

  1. Finding other sources of positive emotions. It can be a sport or any other hobby – everything that brings pleasure. 
  2. Finding serious motivation. A person who suffers from the addiction should somehow motivate himself or herself to give up the destructive habit. Perhaps, someone can find a motivation in understanding that video games keep people away from joys of life, such as 
  3. Suppressing 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 hobby can help with this. On the other hand, coding against video game addiction is not suitable for everyone.
  4. Organizing your daily schedule in the most efficient way. If an addicted person is busy with important tasks during the whole day, he or she will not have time for gaming. [2]

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

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Completion of the training is going to help to change an unhealthy model of behavior, in our case a craving for video games, which does not allow you to enjoy real life. After working through your negative settings and substituting them to the positive ones, an addicted person will find the strength and enthusiasm to give up an obsession, which occupies all the free time. Having strengthened a will power and having found a motivation you will find a quick and smooth way to get rid of video game addiction. You will acquire an understanding that video games are one of the worst 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. Distant format of the training gives you an opportunity to solve your problem in a place that is comfortable for you. A psychologist provides a consultation via phone and e-mail, as well as via online chats. Participation in the training is confidential: you may not tell anyone that you are receiving a treatment from video game addiction.

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


  1. «Kompyuternaya zavisimost kak odin iz vidov addiktivnoj realizacii» (zhurnal «Pedagogika i psihologiya»), M. V. Zhukova (https://cyberleninka.ru/article/v/kompyuternaya-zavisimost-kak-odin-iz-vidov-addiktivnoy-realizatsii).
  2. «Kompyuternaya igrovaya zavisimost: simptomy, profilaktika i lechenie», 2017 g., A. Michman.
  3. «Koncepciya formirovaniya kompyuternoj zavisimosti» (zhurnal «Socialnaya i klinicheskaya psihiatriya», 2013, t. 23, № 3), V. A. Soldatkin (https://cyberleninka.ru/article/v/kontseptsii-formirovaniya-kompyuternoy-zavisimosti).
  4. «Drugie narkotiki, ili Homo Addictus», 2006 g., A. V. Kotlyarov.