Is Video Game Addiction Real?

Dec 18, 2023

Key Points:

  • Video game addiction debate acknowledged, with WHO recognizing it as a serious condition.

  • Addictive elements in games include rewards, challenges, social connections, and escapism.

  • Controversy surrounds whether excessive gaming is an addiction or a symptom of psychological issues.

  • Unhealthy gaming behavior disrupts daily responsibilities, with signs like restlessness and stress.

  • Balance in considering both mental benefits and drawbacks of video games is crucial, emphasizing professional evaluation for accurate assessment and intervention.

In recent years, the topic of video game addiction has sparked debate among psychologists, healthcare professionals, and the gaming community. As video games continue to evolve into more immersive and engaging experiences, concerns about their potential for addictive behavior have come to the forefront. 

What is a Gaming Disorder? 

Gaming disorder is recognized as a serious condition where an individual's engagement with video games becomes excessive and problematic. More than playing games for extended periods of time, a gaming disorder is when gaming starts to take precedence over other important activities like work, socializing, or self-care.

The World Health Organization (WHO) has officially classified gaming disorder as a health issue. It’s characterized not only by the amount of time spent playing games but also by the inability to control this behavior and continuing to play despite experiencing negative consequences.


When gaming becomes the main focus of someone's life, they might skip meals, reduce their sleep, or neglect social and work obligations just to play games. It's a condition where the balance tilts from a recreational activity to an unhealthy obsession, impacting a person's overall well-being and daily functioning.

What Makes Video Games Addictive?

Video games are intricately designed to be engaging and rewarding, which can lead to them being addictive for some individuals. The addictive quality of video games stems from several elements:

  • Rewards and Levels: Many games offer rewards such as points, new levels, or unique in-game items, which provide a sense of achievement and encourage continuous play.

  • Challenges and Goals: Games often include missions or objectives. Successfully completing these tasks can be satisfying and motivates players to set and achieve new goals.

  • Social Connections: Online gaming allows players to connect and interact with friends and other players worldwide, creating a social aspect that can be compelling.

  • Escaping Reality: For many, video games offer a way to unwind and escape from daily stressors. While this can be a healthy coping mechanism in moderation, it may become problematic if used excessively as an escape from reality.

It's the combination of these things that can make video games really addictive for some people.

The Controversy Behind Video Game Addiction

The topic of video game addiction is subject to debate. 

On one side, supporters of the view that excessive gaming can be classified as an addiction highlight studies showing a link between excessive gaming and the negative impacts on mental health, social interactions, and job performance. This perspective suggests that excessive gaming is a compulsive behavior that can lead to consequences similar to those of traditional addictions. 

Conversely, skeptics of the addiction label often reference studies that suggest compulsive gaming is often a symptom of underlying psychological issues, such as anxiety or depression. This view cautions against hastily diagnosing enthusiastic gaming as pathological, noting that many individuals engage in gaming without it disrupting their lives. 

Further complicating the debate, others refer to studies that highlight the potential benefits of gaming, including enhanced cognitive functions like improved problem-solving skills and quicker reaction times. Critics of the addiction narrative argue that these positive aspects of gaming are frequently overshadowed in discussions about its potential harms. 

When Gaming Becomes a Problem

Gaming becomes a problem when it starts to take over important parts of your life. This might mean playing games for many hours, ignoring work, family, or sleep. If you find yourself skipping meals, avoiding friends, or struggling at work because of gaming, it's a sign that gaming is becoming a problem.

Another red flag is if you feel restless or irritable when you're not playing games. This can be a sign that you're becoming too dependent on gaming for happiness or escape. Gaming should be a fun part of life, not the only part. When it starts to cause stress or harm, it's time to reevaluate your gaming habits.

Healthy vs. Unhealthy Gaming Behavior

Understanding the difference between healthy and unhealthy gaming is important. Healthy gaming is when you play games for fun or relaxation, and it doesn't interfere with your daily responsibilities. It's like any other hobby – enjoyable, but only one part of a balanced life.

Unhealthy gaming, on the other hand, starts to disrupt your life. If you're playing games to avoid problems, feeling unable to cut down on gaming, or if it's causing trouble in your relationships or at work, these are signs of unhealthy gaming. Games are a great way to unwind, but they shouldn't be an escape from reality or a barrier to living a full, healthy life.

Mental Benefits and Drawbacks of Video Games

Video games have both mental benefits and drawbacks. On the positive side, they can improve problem-solving skills, hand-eye coordination, and even boost creativity. Many games require strategic thinking and quick decision-making, which can be mentally stimulating.

However, the drawbacks can include a risk of addiction for some people. Excessive gaming can lead to social isolation, sleep disturbances, and increased stress or anxiety. It's important to be aware of these risks and to play games in moderation.

The key is finding a balance. Video games can be a fun and beneficial part of life, but like anything, they should be enjoyed responsibly and not at the expense of your health or responsibilities.

Signs You May Be Addicted to Video Games

Recognizing the signs of video game addiction is the first step towards getting help. Here are some common indicators:

  • Loss of Control: You find it hard to limit your gaming time, often playing much longer than you intended.

  • Neglecting Responsibilities: You start ignoring work, school, or family duties because of gaming.

  • Mood Changes: Feeling irritable, anxious, or restless when you're not playing games.

  • Losing Interest in Other Activities: No longer enjoying hobbies or activities that used to bring you joy.

  • Sleep Disturbances: Staying up late to play games, leading to sleep deprivation.

  • Concealing Gaming Habits: Hiding the amount of time you spend gaming from friends or family.


If you recognize these signs in yourself or a loved one, it might be time to consider seeking help.

Video Game Addiction Tests and Self-Assessments

While there are self-assessment tools and online tests for video game addiction, they can't replace professional advice. These tools might give you an initial idea of whether you should be concerned, but only a specialist can provide an accurate evaluation.

Remember, reaching out for help is a sign of strength, not weakness. If you're concerned about video game addiction, don't hesitate to call or fill out our online form for a confidential evaluation. Your mental health is worth it.  

References: 

Gaming Disorder | World Health Organization

Internet Gaming Disorder: Investigating the Clinical Relevance of a New Phenomenon | National Library of Medicine

Lack of consensus among scholars on the issue of video game “addiction” | APA PsycNet

Using Video Games to Improve Capabilities in Decision Making and Cognitive Skill: A Literature Review | ScienceDirect 

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