Lost in the Game: Understanding the Realities of Video Game Addiction

Last Updated
March 7, 2023
An avid gamer that has a video game addiction and is playing violent video games

What Is It?
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Video game addiction is when someone plays video games too excessively. People who are addicted to video games have trouble putting the game away.

- Escapism
- Social connections
- Reward systems
- Challenge and achievement
- Variable-ratio reinforcement
- Personal factors
- Accessibility
- Time investment
- Fear of missing out (FOMO)
- Habit formation

- Preoccupation
- Experiencing irritability, sadness, or anxiety when unable to play
- Needing to spend increasing amounts of time gaming
- Loss of control
- Neglecting other activities
- Continued use despite negative consequences
- Deception
- Escaping negative emotions
- Risky behavior
- Social isolation

- Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT)
- Motivational interviewing
- Family therapy
- Group therapy or support groups
- Psychoeducation
- Lifestyle changes
- Setting limits
- Medication
- Inpatient treatment

Playing video games too much is a big problem, and it can be hard for people to stop playing. More and more people can play games on their phones and computers, which makes it easier to form a video game addiction.

This blog post explains what a video game addiction is. We ralk about the signs, symptoms, and when you're addicted to video games. Knowing this information can help us stop addiction before it starts.


Online therapy offers effective support for individuals struggling with gaming addictions, providing a convenient and accessible platform to address underlying issues and develop healthier habits.

What is video game addiction?

Video game addiction is when someone plays video games too excessively. It can stop them from doing important things like going to school, having relationships, and doing their jobs.

People who are addicted to video games experience trouble stopping playing. Even if it causes problems, they can't control their gaming behavior. They also think about playing games a lot and do not pay attention to important things in life. [1]

Fun fact: Gaming, when excessively relied upon as an escape from reality, can become an unhealthy coping mechanism, hindering personal growth and social interactions.

Important Video Game Addiction Statistics

  • The estimated percentage of gamers who meet the criteria for addiction to video games is between 1% and 9%. [2]
  • Video game addiction is more common in boys and men than in girls and women. [3]
  • The average gamer spends eight hours and 27 minutes playing video games. [4]
  • 1 in 10 gamers between the ages of 8 and 18 is addicted to video games. [5]
A child looking at video games

The Reality of Video Game Addiction

As with any hobby, it's easy for gaming to become an addiction. Gaming addiction can affect anyone, regardless of age, gender, or background. While the percentage of players who meet the criteria for dependence on video games is relatively small, the consequences of gaming addiction can be severe.

A man playing games on his two monitors

What causes video game addiction?

Brain chemistry

Video gaming can make a chemical in the brain called dopamine. This chemical makes people feel good. People who are more sensitive to this chemical might become addicted to video games. [2]


Research suggests that your family might have something to do with your gaming disorder. Scientists are still trying to figure out which genes in the family play a part. [3]


The environment can affect someone's video game addiction. People who have a lot of technology and spend time with people who play games could be more likely to become addicted. [4]

Mental health illnesses

People with mental health issues like anxiety, depression, and ADHD may be more likely to form video game addictions. People with low self-esteem or who feel lonely might use video gaming as a way to avoid their problems and find a sense of purpose. [5]

Impulsivity and self-control

Self-control and impulsivity can affect someone negatively who spends too much time playing video games. Impulsivity is when you do something without thinking about the results. While self-control is when you can say no to yourself and wait for a better time. [6]

Who does a gaming addiction affect?

  • Teenagers and young adults up to 35 years old
  • People with mental health problems (anxiety, depression, and ADHD)
  • Isolated individuals
  • Individuals with low self-esteem
  • Individuals who have a family history of addiction
  • Unemployed individuals [7]

Did you know?

Online therapists, equipped with the necessary expertise, can assess and diagnose gaming addiction by evaluating patterns, behaviors, and psychological factors through comprehensive online assessments and discussions.
A young man playing games

The Impact of Video Game Addiction on Mental Health

Video game addiction can have severe mental health consequences, including:

  • Increased anxiety and depression
  • Social isolation
  • Poor self-esteem
  • Impaired decision-making and problem-solving skills
  • Difficulty focusing and concentrating [12]

The Impact of Gaming Addiction on Relationships

Gaming addiction can significantly affect relationships with family, friends, and romantic partners. Understanding how this addiction can affect these connections and how to address them is essential.

Family Relationships

  • Increased tension and arguments: Excessive gaming can lead to disagreements and conflicts within the family, significantly if gaming interferes with family time or responsibilities.
  • Communication breakdown: A family member addicted to gaming might become withdrawn and less communicative, making it difficult for other family members to connect with them.
  • Neglect of family duties: When gaming takes precedence over household chores, childcare, or other family commitments, it can create resentment and additional stress.


  • Social isolation: Gaming addiction can lead to isolation from friends, as the individual might prioritize gaming over socializing or attending events.
  • Strained friendships: Friends may feel neglected or ignored if the person with a gaming addiction is frequently unavailable or disinterested in engaging in activities outside of gaming.
  • Misaligned priorities: As gaming consumes more time and energy, shared interests and hobbies with friends might fall by the wayside, weakening connections.

Romantic Relationships

  • Emotional disconnection: Partners with gaming addiction may feel emotionally neglected, leading to feelings of loneliness and disconnection.
  • Conflict and resentment: Arguments about the amount of time spent gaming and the impact on household responsibilities, and finances can cause significant strain on the relationship.
  • Intimacy issues: Excessive gaming can lead to decreased physical and emotional intimacy, creating distance between partners.

Addressing the Impact on Relationships

  • Open communication: Encourage honest conversations about the effects of gaming addiction on relationships, and work together to find solutions that strengthen these connections.
  • Professional help: Seek therapy or support groups for the person struggling with gaming addiction and family members and partners affected by their behavior.
  • Balance and boundaries: Establish healthy boundaries around gaming and prioritize quality time spent with family, friends, and romantic partners.

Understanding the impact of gaming addiction on relationships is crucial to fostering healthy connections and supporting those affected by this addiction. By addressing the issue openly and seeking help, it's possible to rebuild and strengthen these relationships. [13]

A young couple playing games together

Video game addiction symptoms

  • Playing video games for long periods of time
  • Neglecting personal hygiene and other responsibilities
  • Becoming isolated from family and friends
  • Losing interest in activities that were once enjoyable
  • Poor academic performance
  • Mood swings or irritability when not playing
  • Stealing money to purchase video games
  • Continual lying about how much time you spend playing video games
  • Experiencing withdrawal symptoms such as anxiety, depression, and agitation when unable to play.
  • Unable to stop playing
  • Use gaming to cope with negative feelings
  • Physical or psychological withdrawal symptoms such as decreased appetite, insomnia, restlessness, and emotional instability [8]

What are the negative effects of your video game addiction?

  • You forget to do important things like school work, job duties, or spending time with friends and family
  • It can cause problems with people who are close to you like family, friends, and your romantic partner
  • Financial issues
  • Staying up late
  • Social isolation
  • Emotional issues like anxiety, social anxiety, or depression
  • Increased risk of obesity or other physical health issues
  • Lower academic performance or job productivity
  • It can also lead to mood swings, aggression, and even violence [9]

Helpful Tip

To control your temper, practice deep breathing, count to ten, and remind yourself of the consequences of losing control. Seek healthy outlets like exercise or talking to a trusted friend.

How to treat a gaming addiction


Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) 

CBT is a widely-used therapy that helps individuals identify the underlying reasons for their video game addiction and change maladaptive thought patterns or behaviors. Through CBT, individuals can develop healthier coping strategies and learn to manage their gaming habits effectively [10]

Family therapy

Family therapy is a valuable tool for addressing gaming addiction, as it involves the entire family in healing. Improving communication and resolving conflicts within the family can create a more supportive environment for the individual struggling with addiction.

Group therapy

Group therapy provides a supportive platform for individuals with a gaming addiction to share their experiences, challenges, and insights with others facing the same problem. This sense of camaraderie and mutual understanding can be a powerful motivator in the recovery process.


While there are no specific medications for gaming addiction, doctors may prescribe medications to help manage co-occurring issues like depression or anxiety, which often contribute to the development and maintenance of the addiction. [15]

Self-care activities

  • Admit that you have a problem
  • Get rid of gaming devices
  • Set small, achievable goals
  • Create a plan to accomplish your goals
  • Put your plan into action
  • Replace gaming with other activities and distract yourself
  • Celebrate your successes [11]
A child playing games

Strategies for Parents: Helping Your Child Maintain a Healthy Gaming Balance

Navigating the world of video games can be challenging for parents, especially when ensuring that their child's gaming habits remain healthy. Here are some strategies to help you guide your child in the right direction:

Set Boundaries and Time Limits

  • Establish clear rules for gaming, such as allowing a certain amount of time per day or week.
  • Encourage your child to take regular breaks and avoid marathon gaming sessions.
  • Implement a "no screens" policy during family meals or outings.

Monitor Gaming Content

  • Be aware of the games your child is playing and their age-appropriateness
  • Discuss the themes and values present in the games, and address any concerns openly.
  • Consider using parental controls to limit access to specific content or restrict gaming hours.

Encourage Alternative Activities

  • Help your child explore other hobbies and interests, such as sports, arts, or music.
  • Plan family activities that don't involve screens, like nature walks or board game nights.
  • Teach your child the importance of balance in all aspects of life.

Foster Open Communication

  • Talk to your child about their gaming experiences and thoughts, and feelings.
  • Share your concerns in a non-judgmental way and work together to find solutions.
  • Keep an open dialogue about the potential risks of excessive gaming and the importance of moderation.

Promote Positive Social Interaction

  • Encourage your child to play with friends in real life, not just online
  • Help them develop healthy social skills by facilitating playdates, sleepovers, or extracurricular activities.
  • Monitor their online interactions and discuss the importance of online safety and etiquette. [17]

Helpful tip: When disciplining a child with reactive attachment disorder who won't stop gaming, focus on building trust and attachment. Set clear limits, offer alternative activities, and engage in therapeutic interventions tailored to their needs, like play therapy or family therapy.

Two friends playing games together

Personal Stories: Overcoming Gaming Addiction

Story 1: Sarah's Journey to Reclaiming Her Life

Sarah, a 24-year-old college student, started playing an online multiplayer game during her first year to escape the stress of her studies. As the months passed, her gaming sessions grew longer, and she began neglecting her coursework, friendships, and self-care. Sarah's grades dropped, and her relationships suffered. 

After a tearful conversation with her concerned roommate, Sarah decided to seek help. She started attending therapy and joined a support group for gaming addicts. She learned to manage her gaming habits and prioritize her real-life responsibilities through her journey. Today, Sarah has graduated college, found a fulfilling job, and enjoys gaming in moderation.

Story 2: Mike's Struggle with Gaming and Depression

Mike, a 35-year-old father of two, used gaming to escape the pressures of work and family life. What began as a fun hobby soon spiraled into a full-blown addiction, with Mike spending most of his free time glued to the screen. His marriage and relationships with his children strained, and his depression worsened. 

One day, after an emotional breakdown, Mike realized he needed to change. He sought therapy, opened up to his wife about his struggles, and set limits on his gaming time. As Mike learned to balance gaming with his personal life, he rebuilt his relationships and rediscovered the joy in his everyday life.

Story 3: Emma's Battle with Gaming and Social Anxiety

Emma, a 16-year-old high school student, turned to the game to escape her social anxiety. She found solace in the virtual world, where she could interact with others without the fear of judgment. However, her gaming habits became increasingly unhealthy, with Emma spending nearly all her waking hours in front of the screen. Her schoolwork, friendships, and mental health declined. 

Emma's parents intervened and helped her find a therapist specializing in gaming addiction and social anxiety. Through therapy and support from her family, Emma learned to face her fears and develop healthier coping mechanisms. While she still enjoys gaming, Emma has found a more nutritional balance and now actively participates in her school's drama club, where she's made new friends and gained confidence in her social skills.

Prevention Tips for Adults and Children

Prevention is the best way to avoid video game addiction. Here are some tips for both adults and children:

  • Set time limits for play and stick to them.
  • Keep phones and other gadgets out of the bedroom so you will play on time.
  • Do other activities every day, including exercise. This will lower the health risks of sitting and playing for long periods.
  • Encourage children to engage in other hobbies and activities, such as sports or reading.
  • Monitor the games your child is playing and only allow games rated for their age. [19]


Overindulging in video games may negatively impact your well-being. Striking a balance between gaming, connecting with friends and family, and fulfilling daily obligations is crucial. If you believe your gaming habits need moderation, consider seeking support. Share your thoughts on online therapy in the comments below, and let's engage in a meaningful discussion about how it could help in such situations.


How do I know if I have a gaming addiction?

Signs of gaming addictive behaviors include: spending too much time playing games, neglecting your real-life responsibilities and relationships, and feeling irritable when you’re not playing. If you think you may be addicted to gaming, it’s important to talk to a therapist. LINK

What can I do to help someone who has a gaming addiction?

If you know someone who is struggling with gaming addiction, it’s important to be supportive and understanding. Encourage them to seek professional help and offer to go with them, if possible. There are also online therapists that can help, within the comfort of the gaming addicts' home. LINK Try suggesting other activities that can replace gaming such as exercising or socializing with friends.


  1. Harvard Health: The health effects of too much gaming
  2. Brain & Life: How Do Video Games Affect Brain Development in Children and Teens?
  3. Cambridge University: The genetic study of computer game addiction
  4. Psychology Today: 6 Ways Your Environment Is Influencing Your Addiction
  5. NIH: Part 1: The Connection Between Substance Use Disorders and Mental Illness
  6. University of Notre Dame: Addiction and Self-Control
  7. Recovery Village: Video Game Addiction Statistics
  8. UK Rehab: Gaming Addiction Explained
  9. Academia: The Negative Effects of Video Games
  10. Last door: Gaming Addiction Treatment
  11. Health Harvard: 5 action steps for quitting an addiction
  12. Research Gate: The Impact of Online Game Addiction on Adolescent Mental Health
  13. Hacettepe University: Relation between Video Game Addiction and Interfamily Relationships
  14. UK Rehab: Gaming Addiction Explained
  15. Academia: The Negative Effects of Video Games
  16. Health Harvard: 5 action steps for quitting an addiction
  17. Wharaurau: Tips for Parents- to help keep gaming in balance
  18. Last door: Gaming Addiction Treatment

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I have a passion for writing. I work as a Senior Marketing Manager for Islomania LLC. I have developed a strong interest in writing articles and website management during my time here. I enjoy both article writing, poetry, and story writing. In my role as a marketing manager, whether I’m writing an article, or a story, or improving other writers’ content, I always try to engage my readers and give them something to think about.
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