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Focus on Health

December 2018

Video Game Addiction: Is It a Real Thing?

It’s easy to get caught up in a video game. But can you actually become addicted to it? The World Health Organization says you can. In 2018, it included gaming disorder in its official list of conditions for the first time.

So far, gaming addiction isn’t listed as a formal diagnosis in the DSM-5, the main guide used by mental health professionals in the U.S. But the DSM-5 does recommend studying it further. This is an active area of research.

'Just one more level, and then I’ll stop'

There is growing evidence that gaming may affect the brain much like drugs of abuse. How can you tell if you or someone you love has crossed the line from an avid gamer to a person with a problem? Watch for these signs:

  • Being so preoccupied with video games that they become the center of your life

  • Feeling cranky, anxious, or sad when you’re unable to play video games

  • Having to spend more and more time on gaming to satisfy the urge to play

  • Trying to cut back on your gaming time, but being unsuccessful at it

  • Giving up other activities you once enjoyed because you are so consumed by gaming

  • Hiding how much time you spend gaming from your family and friends

  • Using gaming as an escape from negative feelings, such as anxiety or guilt

  • Risking your relationship or job because you’re so wrapped up in gaming

Getting help for out-of-control gaming

If you recognize these signs in yourself or a loved one, reach out for help. Talk with your healthcare provider or a mental health professional.

More research is needed to identify the best treatment for a gaming problem. But one treatment that’s often used is cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). In CBT, you learn skills that can help you recognize and stop addictive behaviors.


Use the media time calculator

Is your child spending too much time on video games and other screen-based activities? The American Academy of Pediatrics has a media time calculator.

Online Medical Reviewer: Gonnella, Joseph, MD
Date Last Reviewed: 10/1/2018
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