Video game addiction doesn’t sound like a real disorder – and as of yet, it isn’t recognized by the American Medical Association – but it can be a very real issue for many. Many gamers experience social connection and feelings of accomplishment, which manifest as intense emotions. Although a video game is a fantasy world, it can seem like reality to an addict who depends on the rewards, achievements and interpersonal connections within a game. It’s that reward that triggers a need for more. Someone who spends a considerable amount of money on video games, online video game rentals or subscription-based games may be using gaming as more than a hobby. It’s not a substance addiction, like drugs or alcohol, rather it’s a behavioral addiction, like sex, gambling or shopping – they can all provide a high.
If you believe you or someone close to you has an addiction to video games, it’s important that you know what video game addiction symptoms look like. Here are five signs of video game addiction:
1. Lying: Many video game addicts fear the judgement of others if they knew how many hours they devote to their addiction. As the dependence on the video game increases, an addict may start lying about how often they play. It’s also a way for the addict to continue feeding their addiction without the chance of losing their obsession.
2. Restlessness: Just like a drug addict, video game addicts’ symptoms can manifest as physical withdrawals. An addict may appear restless or nervous when they go an extended time without their game. They’ve relied on the game to provide them emotional connections and a sense of accomplishment, so without it, they don’t feel good about themselves or their life.
3. Lack of Personal Hygiene: Gaming becomes more important than anything else to the addicted gamer. Many video game addicts start to neglect personal hygiene or forgo sleep and food in order to devote more time to their obsession. This can lead to sleep and eating disorders, poor health and other medical issues.
4. Isolation: A gaming addict opts out of social events, family get-togethers and even work. If they feel they may miss out on an important gaming event, an addict may go to extreme lengths to keep playing, such as skipping school, calling in sick from work too often, or avoiding friends and family. This can result in broken relationships, loss of job or failing classes.
5. Obsession: If a gaming addict talks of little else but the game they’re playing, this may be a sign of a problem. Obsessing over the next time they can get in-game and get their fix is a big red flag. The obsession over the game means they may have little else that they’re taking time for in their real life.
There is no real test to determine whether you have a video game addiction, but if you recognize some of these symptoms in yourself or someone else, it’s worth looking into. Video game addiction treatment can include detox and reconditioning so that the addict learns that they are powerless to their addiction and that they can achieve the same emotional connections and rewarding life experiences in the real world. If you or someone close to you has a video game addiction, you can contact a medical professional who can refer you to a counselor or psychologist for treatment.