Playing video games is a common hobby for many individuals and, in most cases, it does not affect their everyday lives.
However, in some cases, it is possible for individuals to develop an addiction to playing video games. This, in turn, can lead to many issues concerning the individual’s ability to go about their daily lives, their career, relationships, and financial issues.
Recently, this has become more and more of an issue in terms of the focus on different types of addiction.
For example, in some areas of the UK, it is possible for individuals to enter specialised gaming addiction clinics (1). This is in response to the rising concerns surrounding individuals, especially children and young people, and their video game habits.
Though gaming addictions are especially common in young adult males (2), support is becoming increasingly available for individuals of all ages and backgrounds.
Many people may not consider a gaming addiction to be as serious as other addictions such as those to alcohol and other drugs, but they are, in fact, just as easy to develop and can be just as damaging to the individual’s physical and mental well-being.
If someone you know – a child, friend, partner, or another family member – is struggling with an addiction to gaming, then it is important to get help as soon as possible. All addictions worsen over time, so seeking help for someone you know or for yourself is of utmost importance.
The two main categories of a gaming addiction
In general, there are two main forms of gaming addiction. The two are not mutually exclusive, however, and therefore both may present themselves within the individual.
The two main categories are outlined in the following paragraphs.
Single-player gaming addictions
This type of gaming addiction refers to games in which the individual progresses alone, without support from real-life teammates. These types of game can often be extremely addictive due to their focus on constant story progression and gathering resources.
The most addictive single-player games include popular titles such as Minecraft, Overwatch, Skyrim, and GTA V.
Though it is possible to play online (multiplayer) with most of the games mentioned above, the single player game modes are known for their addictive qualities, urging players to keep playing in order to get the best equipment, tools, and building materials.
For this reason, many individuals may commit a lot of time to these games, feeling pressure or a sense of urgency in developing their gameplay as quickly as possible.
With the time taken to achieve these feats in-game, however, this can lead to addiction in a short space of time if not properly monitored or managed.
Multiplayer gaming addictions
Multiplayer games refer to games in which individuals can connect with others playing the same game over the internet to play together – either cooperatively or competitively.
These games are especially addictive due to the focus on progression, again, but also ‘ranking up’. This refers to in-game systems in which an individual may be able to unlock different features of the game based on their performance during competitive online games.
Because of this, individuals may continue to play and play in order to unlock the next rank or to progress faster than others.
Common addictive multiplayer games include World of Warcraft, Counter-Strike, Call of Duty, and League of Legends.
Each of these games has a strong focus on progressing and being the highest rank possible. For this reason, as well as the in-game purchases that may benefit this cause, individuals may quickly be caught up in the competitive nature of these games.
In these cases, individuals may spend hundreds of hours trying to improve their performance, leading to an addiction in some cases.
Why might an individual develop a gaming addiction?
For some individuals, it is possible to play and engage in video games without developing an addiction. They are able to maintain other hobbies as well as have an active social life, positive work performance, good relationships, and no financial issues.
However, for others it may be more of an issue. When someone is addicted to video games, these areas of their life may suffer.
For example, they may begin to struggle at work or school due to a lack of focus (thinking about gaming constantly) as well as letting this affect other areas of their life such as the time spent with friends and family and the money that they may spend on video games.
This may occur for many reasons.
For example, many people find that playing video games is a great way to escape from everyday problems – perhaps issues at work or at home.
This can lead to the individual spending extended amounts of time playing games, purely to get away from the stresses of everyday life.
In addition, and as per the reasons mentioned in the previous paragraph, some games are excessively focused on progression, meaning that the game may not be as enjoyable until the individuals are of a higher level, making them more likely to dedicate a lot of time to this cause in order to progress and therefore ‘enjoy’ the game more.
How do I know if I’m addicted to video games?
These are useful signs to look out for if you believe yourself or someone you know to have an addiction to video games. This can help identify the issue and therefore begin to seek suitable and appropriate care.
The most common signs of video game addiction are listed below:
- Constantly wanting to play or thinking about video games – whether this refers to a specific game, or the need to play games in general, can be a key sign of an addiction
- Concealing the amount of time spent playing video games – an individual may lie or attempt to hide the true amount of time that they spend playing games from those around them
- Drop in the frequency of social activities – an individual may turn down offers to spend time with friends and family in order to spend more time playing games
- Changes in sleep pattern – if an individual is spending a lot of time playing games, this can affect the amount and quality of sleep that they can get
- Headaches – associated with blue light commonly emitted from screens, this can seriously affect an individual’s likelihood of developing headaches
- Repetitive strain injury (RSI) – especially for individuals using a keyboard and mouse to play video games, this is a serious risk and can affect their ability to complete other everyday activities such as washing up and getting dressed etc.
- Drop in the level of personal hygiene and/or self-care – if an individual is committing a lot of time to playing games, then they may begin to neglect other areas of their life such as maintaining good personal hygiene and taking time for themselves away from a screen
Problems associated with a video game addiction
As can be seen from some of the signs and symptoms above, there are many ways in which an individual’s addiction to video games may begin to cause issues in other areas of their life.
Perhaps the most common of these issues is the constant focus on and distraction of thinking about playing video games.
Especially in young people, daydreaming or constantly thinking about playing games can have a serious effect on their lives. For example, not paying attention in school may begin to affect their grades and therefore their future opportunities in terms of education.
This is the same for adults as well, for any distraction from work, especially manual labour, could have serious consequences in terms of the individual’s health, their ability to carry out their job, and the likelihood of them maintaining a career in their current field.
In addition, any physical health effects such as developing headaches or RSI can have an impact on other activities that individuals may need to take part in.
For example, if an individual has developed RSI as a result of playing video games excessively, then they may not be able to undertake everyday activities and their quality of life and mental well-being may be affected as a result of this.
Though video games have been shown to have positive effects on mental health in some situations (3), in the case of addiction this is often not true due to the excessive nature of the individual’s behaviours.
Common treatment programmes for gaming addictions
In terms of treatment options for individuals struggling with a video game addiction, there are many different methods to trial.
These can be dependent on the individual’s age, their history of the addiction, and the severity of the addiction.
For example, if an individual is not spending a large majority of their time playing and/or thinking about video games, then some more specialised treatments such as cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) may not be so suitable.
CBT is one of the most popular forms of therapy used across all addictions due to its flexible and tailored nature. Its use in the treatment of video game addictions is widely known and implemented (4).
During a CBT session, individuals may talk with a counsellor or therapist in order to explain their struggles and use their own internal resources to produce coping mechanisms. Most individuals will be recommended a course of a multiple sessions with progress checks throughout.
In addition, it may be useful for individuals to schedule in specific time for playing video games. Though this may not always work in all situations, especially in the case of a longer history of video game addictions, it can be useful for younger children.
By limiting the total amount of time that an individual can spend on a console, PC, or screen in general, they are much less likely to develop an addiction, and the thoughts about playing games may slowly reduce over time.
How to help someone who is addicted to video games
As an individual who may know someone with a video game addiction, it can be difficult to know how to help.
Whether this is due to the relationship with this person i.e., a close friend or family member, or whether it seems as if a video game addiction may not be impacting other areas of their lives, knowing where to start is challenging.
As mentioned in the previous paragraph, it may be suitable to implement a time schedule for the individual to play games within.
For example, the individual could be allocated 30 minutes of video games a day, or a specific time period e.g., 4:30pm – 5pm.
This is generally implemented in the case of younger children, especially those who reside with their parents and have a constant form of support in terms of ensuring that the individual sticks to this schedule.
In the case of older children or adults who may live alone, it may be useful to use alarms or timers to ensure that the individual sticks to their schedule. Rewards may also be used within this method.
For example, if the individual plays games for as long as their schedule says, then they may allow themselves to gain an additional reward such as a special meal.
How can Rehab Recovery help?
Though this may be seen as the main form of addiction treatment, help and support are available for all forms of addiction – including video game addictions.
If the individual decides to progress, a member of the Rehab Recovery team will then be able to suggest suitable treatment programmes for the individual’s specific case.
We offer advice to individuals across all stages of the rehabilitation process, whether you are simply looking for advice, needing assistance choosing and entering a rehab programme, or returning to rehabilitative care after previous attempts.
Please do not hesitate to get in contact with Rehab Recovery today.
 NHS England: Children treated for computer gaming addiction under NHS Long Term Plan, 8 October 2019: https://www.england.nhs.uk/2019/10/children-treated-for-computer-gaming-addiction-under-nhs-long-term-plan/
 Stockdale, L. and Coyne, S.M., 2018. Video game addiction in emerging adulthood: Cross-sectional evidence of pathology in video game addicts as compared to matched healthy controls. Journal of affective disorders, 225, pp.265-272.
 Jones, C.M., Scholes, L., Johnson, D., Katsikitis, M. and Carras, M.C., 2014. Gaming well: links between videogames and flourishing mental health. Frontiers in psychology, 5, p.260.
 King, D.L., Delfabbro, P.H. and Griffiths, M.D., 2010. Cognitive behavioral therapy for problematic video game players: Conceptual considerations and practice issues. Journal of CyberTherapy & Rehabilitation (JCR), 3(3).