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One of the biggest challenges we face as humans is breaking a behaviour. When you have a pattern that creates negative consequences in your life, you may need help. Here we explain what video game addiction is and what you can do about it.

What is video game addiction?

Video game addiction, also known as gaming addiction and internet gaming disorder, is a condition where a person’s video game use negatively impacts their life. This means that the person has difficulty controlling their gaming and continues to play even though it has negative consequences.

A 2016 study of Ontario residents found that 40% met the criteria for problematic technology use, including internet use disorder.

Is video game addiction a diagnosis?

Internet gaming disorder is mentioned in the DSM-5 (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders), but more research is required before it can be classified as a specific diagnosis. Regardless of this, gaming can be a problem behaviour that may need to be addressed.

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Causes of video game addiction

A mixture of biological, psychological, and social factors can cause an addiction to gaming. Psychologically, loneliness, depression, or anxiety can lead people to use games as an escape from reality. Designed to be addictive, video games stimulate the brain’s reward system.

Social aspects such as community within games can also encourage increased use, especially for those who feel isolated in real life. In addition, the high availability of games makes them easy to overuse.

Personal factors such as impulsivity and stress management also play a role, and there may be a genetic predisposition to addictive behaviours. Overall, gaming addiction is a complex issue that varies from person to person.

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Symptoms of video game addiction

Video game addiction can have many different symptoms. These symptoms can vary in intensity between individuals. This includes spending an excessive amount of time gaming, often at the expense of sleep, work, and study. Individuals may lose interest in other activities that were previously important to them, and use gaming as a way of coping with negative emotions such as stress, anxiety, or depression. It can cause conflicts in relationships with family, friends, or partners, and individuals may start to lie about or hide how often they play video games.


Individuals may have difficulty controlling or reducing their gaming, even when it affects their work, studies, or health. Psychological withdrawal symptoms such as anxiety, irritation, or sadness may occur when they are unable to game. Despite these negative consequences, they continue to play, indicating a serious problem that may require professional help.

Children and young people with video game addiction

Children and young people with video game addiction can show different signs and face unique challenges. This is particularly problematic as they are still developing both physically and mentally. Their excessive gaming can affect their social, emotional, and cognitive development, limiting their ability to develop social skills and engage in problem-solving or creative thinking.

Professional help, such as therapy or support groups specializing in children and adolescents may be needed to help with video game addiction. A balanced approach to gaming, with clear boundaries and alternative activities, is important to promote healthy development.

Unique challenges for young people

Gambling addiction can lead to neglected schoolwork, reduced concentration, and poor grades. Additionally, it can affect their physical health through poor posture, eye problems, and increased risk of obesity. There is also an increased risk of mental health concerns such as anxiety, depression, and low self-esteem. It’s a vicious cycle, as gaming can then be used as an escape from these problems.

Sleep disorders are common in children and adolescents who play games late at night, affecting their health and well-being. Moreover, an excessive focus on gaming can lead to social isolation. The role of parents is crucial in monitoring their children’s gaming and encouraging a healthy balance between gaming, physical activity, social interaction, and other responsibilities.

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Treatment with CBT online

It is possible to get therapy for gaming addiction online. At Lavendla, we have licensed psychologists and CBT therapists who can help you with treatment.

From conversation to understanding and change

Talk therapy is often the first step in seeking help. By working with a psychologist or therapist, you can begin to understand your symptoms and triggers, which is essential for long-term change.

12 common questions and answers about video game addiction

What is video game addiction?

Video game addiction, also known as gaming addiction and internet gaming disorder, is a condition where a person develops an addiction to video games. This means that the person has difficulty controlling their gaming and continues to play even though it has negative consequences in different areas of life.

Is video game addiction a disease?

Video game addiction is not an official medical diagnosis, but regardless of this, it can be a problem behaviour for which you may need to seek help.

Can video game addiction be cured?

Any type of addiction can be treated, but it often requires care and support. It is possible to change your patterns and improve your quality of life.

What are the signs that I may be addicted to video games?

The signs of video game addiction include finding it difficult to control your gaming and continuing to play despite the negative impact on different areas of your life.

What are the risks of video game addiction?

The potential risks range from problems with your physical and mental health, work or school, and problems in relationships. It is therefore advisable to seek help.

How can I help a family member who is addicted to video games?

The first step is to offer your support, encourage them to seek professional help, and stand by them during treatment.

What treatment options are available?

There are several different types of treatment such as Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT).

Can you have other mental health problems at the same time as being addicted to video games?

There may be underlying mental health concerns such as anxiety, depression, low self-esteem, and loneliness.

What can be done in case of relapse?

Relapse can happen and it is important to seek help immediately. Relapse is not a sign of failure but it is important to act quickly to get back on track.

What resources are available?

Beyond our professional therapists and psychologists, many websites, books, and support groups can offer additional information and support.

Can video game addiction be treated online?

Yes, our therapists and psychologists offer online support sessions via video conferencing.

How important is the support system around a person with video game addiction?

A support system is usually crucial for a successful recovery. It can help reduce the risk of relapse and help the person maintain a healthier lifestyle.

Treatment steps to improve quality of life

Treatment for video game addiction often involves a combination of therapeutic strategies, support, and sometimes medical interventions, tailored to the individual’s specific needs and situation. Here is a description of what a typical treatment process might look like:

1. Evaluation and diagnosis

Treatment usually begins with a comprehensive evaluation by a psychologist, psychiatrist, or other qualified health professional. This aims to understand the extent of the addiction, identify any co-occurring mental health conditions, and assess the individual’s overall physical and mental health.

2. Individual therapy

Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) is a common method of treating video game addiction. CBT helps the individual learn to recognize and change negative thought patterns and behaviours that are linked to their addiction. The therapist can work to address the underlying causes of the addiction, such as anxiety, depression, or low self-esteem.

3. Family therapy and counseling

As family dynamics are often affected, family therapy can be part of the treatment. This helps the family understand the addiction and how they can support the affected person. The family also learns how to manage conflict and improve communication.

4. Support groups and community

Participation in support groups such as Gaming Addicts Anonymous or other self-help groups can offer additional support. Sharing experiences and strategies with others who have similar problems can be very helpful.

5. Digital detox and behavioural changes

A “digital detox” might be recommended. This means taking a break from all digital devices for a certain period. During this time, the individual learns to find and engage in other activities outside the digital space.

6. Lifestyle changes

Encouraging and establishing a healthy lifestyle is important. This includes establishing a routine of a balanced diet, regular exercise, good sleep hygiene, and social activities.

7. Medical treatment

Medical treatment can be prescribed by a doctor if there are concurrent mental health conditions such as depression or anxiety,

8. Follow-up and relapse prevention

After completing initial treatment, regular follow-up is important to prevent relapse. The therapist can continue to work with the individual to reinforce the skills learned during treatment and help them deal with challenges that arise.

    Remember, each individual is unique. Treatment should be tailored to their specific needs. Treatment can take different amounts of time depending on the severity of the addiction and the individual’s commitment to the treatment process.

    The first step to change

    Book a 20- or 45-minute session with a qualified coach, therapist, or psychologist today via our website booking form. If now isn’t the right time, remember that there is always an opportunity to come back when you are ready to make a change. Together we make the difficult easier.

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    Written by Ellen Lindgren

    Licensed psychologist

    Ellen is a licensed psychologist and has experience mainly in clinical psychology where she has worked with various conditions such as stress, anxiety, depression, insomnia, crises and trauma in primary care and psychiatry. She has also worked with research while studying in the US and with affective disorders and insomnia at Karolinska Institutet, Sweden.