What Causes Video Game Addiction?

Mar 23, 2024

Video game addiction is a growing concern, where the line between leisure and compulsion blurs. As games become more immersive and accessible, understanding the underlying factors that lead to addictive behavior is crucial. 

From the dopamine rush associated with in-game achievements to the social dynamics within virtual communities, various elements contribute to the addictive nature of video games. Recognizing these factors is the first step towards fostering a healthier relationship with gaming. 

What is Video Game Addiction?

Video game addiction is characterized as a compulsive behavioral disorder, with symptoms mirroring those found in substance abuse disorders. However, unlike substance addictions that revolve around a chemical dependency, behavioral addictions like video gaming, gambling, or other activities are driven by an uncontrollable urge to engage in the activity for the emotional satisfaction it provides during and after participation. 

Diagnosing Video Game Addiction

Identifying video game addiction involves a thorough understanding of an individual’s behaviors, emotional state, and the impact of gaming on their daily life. Healthcare professionals use a combination of clinical criteria, patient history, and behavioral assessments to diagnose this disorder. 

The World Health Organization (WHO) has officially recognized video game addiction as a legitimate mental health condition in the ICD-11, a manual used for diagnosing mental health disorders. According to WHO, diagnosis criteria include a pattern of persistent or recurrent gaming behavior so severe that it takes precedence over other life interests and daily activities. This includes a loss of control over gaming, escalated engagement despite negative consequences, and the neglect of other interests and daily pursuits in favor of gaming.

Additionally, WHO specifies that the adverse impacts of this addiction must manifest in significant areas of the individual's life — including personal, family, social, educational, professional, or other critical aspects of functionality — persisting for a minimum duration of one year.

What Makes Video Games Addictive?

Video games captivate millions worldwide, offering immersive experiences, thrilling challenges, and virtual communities. Yet, for some, the line between a fulfilling hobby and a compulsive need blurs, leading to addictive behaviors. Psychological triggers, social connections, and biological predispositions play a large role in transforming gaming from a casual pastime into an unhealthy obsession.  

Dopamine Desensitization

Dopamine desensitization plays a large role in video game addiction, similar to substance dependency, due to the prolonged and excessive stimulation of the brain's reward pathways during gaming. Studies have shown that this overstimulation leads to the brain's reduced sensitivity to dopamine, compelling individuals to engage in longer or more intense gaming sessions to recapture the initial levels of satisfaction and pleasure. 

This cycle mirrors the tolerance development seen in caffeine addiction, where increased consumption is required to achieve the same effects. The consequences are significant, impacting motivation and leading to a diminished interest in previously rewarding activities outside of gaming.

Escaping From Reality

Video games offer an escape from reality, allowing players to immerse themselves in environments where the stresses and strains of real life can be momentarily set aside. Research has highlighted that this form of escapism can lead to a reliance on gaming as a maladaptive coping strategy

This dependency prevents the healthy processing of emotions and the development of effective coping mechanisms, leading to a cycle where real-life challenges become increasingly challenging, further incentivizing the retreat into virtual worlds. The negative effects of this escape have the potential to limit emotional growth and exacerbate the reliance on video gaming as a coping mechanism.

Feeling a Sense of Belonging

The rise of multiplayer gaming and online communities has transformed gaming into a highly social activity, providing a sense of belonging and acceptance. This digital camaraderie can be particularly appealing to individuals facing social anxiety or isolation, offering a safe space for interaction. 

However, the reliance on these virtual interactions can stunt the development of real-life social skills, including picking up on non-verbal social cues. Studies have shown that while online communities can supplement social needs, they cannot replace the depth and complexity of face-to-face interactions, emphasizing the importance of balancing online and offline social engagement for overall well-being.

Biological Factors

Research suggests that males may be genetically predisposed to find video games more rewarding than females, possibly due to differences in brain activation related to goal-oriented behaviors and sensitivity to gaming cues. This biological inclination towards gaming may explain the higher prevalence of gaming addiction among males, although it's important to recognize that anyone can be susceptible to video game addiction regardless of gender.

Immediate Rewards

Video games have evolved from requiring hours of dedication to master to offering quick rewards and easy progress. Previously, players had to invest time in learning game mechanics, solving puzzles, and mastering controls. This not only made games rewarding but also taught resilience: success comes from effort and persistence.

Today's gaming trend leans heavily on instant gratification, where achievements and advancements are more readily handed to players. This shift can negatively influence young players by instilling a mindset that expects easy rewards without hard work. 

Such expectations can carry into adulthood, affecting attitudes towards work and challenges. Young people might anticipate regular recognition regardless of effort or quality of work, diminishing the value of true achievement and reducing resilience when faced with real-world challenges. This change in gaming culture risks teaching the wrong lessons about effort, success, and the importance of persistence. 

Getting Help for Video Game Addiction

Acknowledging a video game addiction is a significant first step toward recovery, but understanding where to turn for help can be challenging. Video game addiction requires specialized attention to effectively address its complex nature. Here’s how individuals can begin their journey towards healthier gaming habits and reclaim control over their lives.

First, reaching out to a mental health professional who has experience with behavioral addictions can provide a strong foundation for treatment. Therapy, particularly cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), has shown efficacy in helping individuals understand the triggers of their gaming addiction, develop healthier coping mechanisms, and gradually reduce their gaming time in favor of more fulfilling activities.

Support groups, both online and in-person, offer a sense of community and understanding that can be incredibly powerful. Hearing others share their experiences with video game addiction can validate personal feelings and provide practical strategies for overcoming similar challenges.

For those hesitant to seek formal help, starting a conversation with trusted friends or family members can also be a valuable step. Simply talking about the struggles with gaming can open up avenues of support and understanding within one’s personal network, making the journey less isolating.

Additionally, setting clear and achievable goals for gaming time, finding alternative hobbies to diversify interests, and using apps designed to monitor and limit screen time can empower individuals to take control of their gaming habits.

As our understanding of video game addiction grows, so do the resources available to those seeking help. From professional counseling and support groups to community-based initiatives, the key is to find the approach that resonates most with the individual. It’s important to remember that recovery is a personal journey, one that may have its setbacks, but is ultimately about making progress towards a healthier, more balanced life.

If you or someone you know is struggling with video game addiction, it may be time to seek help. Reach out to a healthcare provider, join a support group, or start the conversation with loved ones. In taking action, you’re not only reclaiming your own life but also lighting the way for others to follow. 


Addictive behaviours: Gaming disorder - World Health Organization

Neurobiological basis of Internet gaming disorder: insights from functional MRI studies  - Archives of Clinical Psychiatry  

Caffeine Use Disorder: A Comprehensive Review and Research Agenda - Journal of Caffeine Research 

Problematic video game use as an emotional coping strategy: Evidence from a sample of MMORPG gamers - Journal of Behavioral Addictions 

Is Technology Enhancing or Hindering Interpersonal Communication? A Framework and Preliminary Results to Examine the Relationship Between Technology Use and Nonverbal Decoding Skill - Frontiers in Psychology 

Gender-related differences in neural responses to gaming cues before and after gaming: implications for gender-specific vulnerabilities to Internet gaming disorder - Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience 

Video Games Are Shaping A Generation Of Instant Gratification: 7 Tips For Parents - Forbes 

Efficacy of cognitive behavioural therapy for internet gaming disorder - Clinical Psychology & Psychotherapy 

Managing Gambling Addiction Relapses

Apr 12, 2024


U.S. Sports Betting Statistics April 2024: Legalization, growth & addiction rising

Apr 12, 2024


My Mom Has a Gambling Addiction: What to Do

Apr 8, 2024


Understanding In-Network and Out-of-Network Providers for Behavioral Addictions

Apr 1, 2024


Has America become a “society of gamblers”?

Mar 28, 2024


How Can I Stop My Child From Gambling

Mar 27, 2024


Birches Health Partners with BettorEdge

Mar 20, 2024


Birches Health Announces Partnership with SaharaBets

Mar 19, 2024


Gambling Addiction Rates Hit All-Time High in U.S.

Mar 13, 2024


Signs of Teen Gambling

Mar 13, 2024


Free Gambling Addiction Treatment

Feb 29, 2024


SNL Sports Betting sketch spotlights real Gambling Addiction issues 

Feb 26, 2024


New U.S. Gambling Stats: Record figures as Addiction also grows

Feb 22, 2024


What will be the social costs of increased gambling? Who will pay them?

Feb 19, 2024


Is it Legal to Bet on the Daytona 500?

Feb 16, 2024


Media Takes Note of America's Increase in Problem Gambling

Feb 15, 2024


What are the Psychological Effects of Gambling?

Jan 31, 2024


Is Day Trading Gambling?

Feb 11, 2024


What are the Different Types of Gamblers?

Feb 12, 2024


Understanding Behavior Disorders

Jan 23, 2024


The Gambling Addiction Recovery, Investment, And Treatment (GRIT) Act

Jan 14, 2024


What is the Cycle of Addiction and How to Break It

Jan 9, 2024


I Lost All My Money Gambling. What Now?

Dec 29, 2023


Your 2024 New Year's Resolution: Stop Sports Betting and Online Gambling

Dec 24, 2023


Why Do Addicts Relapse?

Dec 20, 2023


Is Gambling a Sin?

Dec 18, 2023


Staging a Gambling Intervention for a Loved One

Dec 13, 2023


Signs of Gambling Addiction in a Spouse

Nov 30, 2023


Gambling and Divorce: Statistics and Information

Nov 26, 2023


What is DFS Gambling?

Nov 19, 2023


Addiction Specialist: Helping You Overcome Addiction

Nov 18, 2023


Exploring the Different Types of Gambling

Nov 8, 2023


Technology Addiction: Signs and Treatment

Oct 30, 2023


Is Options Trading Gambling?

Oct 23, 2023


Gambling Addiction and Treatment

Oct 16, 2023


Sex Addiction Treatment and Therapy Options

Oct 14, 2023


Signs of Gambling Addiction

Oct 7, 2023


Is the Stock Market Gambling?

Sep 25, 2023


Tips for Finding a Gambling Rehab Center

Sep 24, 2023


Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for Pathological Gambling

Sep 23, 2023


What Causes Porn Addiction?

Sep 18, 2023


Video Game Addiction

Sep 16, 2023


Porn Addiction Signs & Symptoms

Sep 11, 2023


Gambling Addiction Withdrawal Symptoms & Signs

Aug 29, 2023


How to Stop Online Gambling

Aug 27, 2023


Does Medicare Cover Gambling Rehab?

Aug 19, 2023


Gambling and Dopamine

Aug 12, 2023


Porn Addiction Counseling

Aug 7, 2023


Is Fantasy Football Gambling?

Jul 24, 2023


Signs of a Day Trading Problem

Jul 19, 2023


Why is Gambling Addictive?

Jul 18, 2023


The Arizona Lottery and Gambling

Jul 16, 2023


Is Poker Gambling?

Jul 15, 2023


Is Crypto Gambling?

Jul 14, 2023


Gambling and Sports Betting Among College Students

Jul 8, 2023


Updates made to gambling disorder across the DSM-III, DSM-IV, DSM-5

Updates Made to Gambling Disorder Clinical Criteria Between DSM-III, DSM-IV, and DSM-5

Jul 8, 2023

Cara Anderson

Combatting Gambling and Alcohol Addiction

Jun 30, 2023


Medication for Gambling Addiction

Jun 27, 2023


The Seven Types of Gamblers: Are You One of Them?

Jun 25, 2023

Elliott Rapaport

10 Questions to Ask If You Think Your Loved One Has a Gambling Problem

Jun 24, 2023

Cara Anderson

Las Vegas - often called the gambling capital of the world

Exploring the History of Gambling in the US

Jun 17, 2023

Elliott Rapaport

Gambling Treatment in Arizona

Jun 15, 2023


Voluntary Self Exclusion to Stop Online Gambling

Jun 15, 2023

Cara Anderson

Does Blue Cross Blue Shield Cover Gambling Treatment?

Jun 13, 2023


Gambling Addiction Hotline

Jun 5, 2023


How to Stop Gambling

Jun 1, 2023


Can Gambling Addiction Be Cured?

May 31, 2023


problem gambler worried about addiction

Why Is Gambling So Addictive?

May 30, 2023

Elliott Rapaport

Medication that can cause gambling

Abilify and Compulsive Gambling

May 26, 2023

Cara Anderson

A man who has regained control of his life by stopping gambling and online sports betting

How to Stop Gambling: Strategies for Regaining Control

May 21, 2023

Cara Anderson

This man stopped gambling by recognizing his online sports betting problem

How to Stop Gambling and Save Money

May 18, 2023

Cara Anderson

People celebrating being free of a gambling addiction

How to Help Someone with a Gambling Addiction

May 16, 2023

Elliott Rapaport

The Growing Phenomenon of Cryptocurrency Addiction: What Traders Need to Know About Crypto Addiction

Cryptocurrency Addiction

May 9, 2023

Tobias Jackson

The stock market graph of a day trader who has a day trading addiction

How Day Trading Can Create a Dangerous Addiction

May 4, 2023

Elliott Rapaport

Younger individuals gathered around a computer talking about a gambling addiction meme

How Addictive Memes Have Fueled Problem Gamblers

May 2, 2023

Elliott Rapaport

Man in the middle of taking a Do I have a Gambling Problem Quiz

Clinical Screening Tools and Quizzes to Answer the Question: "Do I have a Gambling Problem?"

May 1, 2023

Tobias Jackson

Insurance paperwork that Birches clients do not need to go through as Birches Health handles all administrative and payment matters for them!

Insurance Coverage for Gambling Addiction in 2023

Apr 29, 2023

Elliott Rapaport

Couple hugging as the man has a gambling addiction and the woman, his loved one, is able to support him through it.

Helping a Loved One with a Gambling Addiction

Apr 27, 2023

Cara Anderson

Man actualizing self care and manifesting his recovery journey from problem gambling and gambling addiction

Self Care for Problem Gamblers

Apr 26, 2023

Cara Anderson

Bad effects of glamorization of gambling in the media in films, tv shows, and podcasts

Glamorized Gambling and What To Be Aware Of

Apr 24, 2023

Elliott Rapaport

Therapist offering a problem gambler gambling addiction counseling and treatment

What is Problem Gambling?

Apr 20, 2023

Elliott Rapaport