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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, 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 diagnosis?

Video game addiction is not an official medical diagnosis according to the diagnostic references such as DSM-5 (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders) or ICD-10 (International Classification of Diseases), but it is a topic that has received attention in research and healthcare. Whether it is a diagnosis or not, it can be a problem behaviour that may need to be addressed.

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Causes of video game addiction

Video game addiction is often caused by a mixture of biological, psychological, and social factors. Loneliness, depression or anxiety can lead people to use games as an escape from reality. The games themselves are designed to be addictive, stimulating the brain’s reward system and offering immediate rewards.

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

Personal factors such as impulsivity and stress management 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 is characterised by several symptoms that can vary in intensity and combination between individuals. These include 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 games 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 much they game.

They may have difficulty controlling or reducing their gaming, even when it clearly 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 who are addicted to video games

Children and young people with video game addictions can show particular signs and face unique challenges, which 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.

Gaming addiction can lead to neglected schoolwork, reduced concentration and poorer grades, as well as affecting their physical health through risks such as poor posture, eye problems and increased risk of obesity. There is also an increased risk of mental health problems such as anxiety, depression and low self-esteem. Gaming can be used as an escape from these problems, creating a vicious circle.

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 if they prefer it to interacting with family and friends. 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.

In severe cases, professional help, such as therapy or support groups specialising in children and adolescents, may be needed to deal with the gaming addiction. A balanced approach to gaming, with clear boundaries and alternative activities, is important to promote healthy development.


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Treatment for video game addiction

Treatment for video game addiction is often multifaceted and individualised, as it can vary depending on the individual’s specific situation and needs. Here are some of the most common treatment methods:

  1. Therapy: Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) is a common type of treatment used to help individuals understand and change their behaviour and thought patterns around gaming. The therapy may also focus on addressing underlying issues such as anxiety, depression, or social difficulties.
  2. Family therapy: Because family dynamics are often affected by a person’s gaming addiction, family therapy can be an important part of treatment. This helps family members understand the problem and how they can support a loved one.
  3. Support groups and self-help groups: Groups such as those following the 12-step programme or other similar support groups can provide social support and advice from others who have experienced of similar problems.
  4. Medical treatment: In some cases, medication can be used to treat underlying mental health conditions that may be contributing to the gaming addiction, such as anxiety or depression.
  5. Digital detox and restrictions: Taking a break from digital devices or strictly limiting their use may be necessary to break the cycle of addiction. This may include removing games from devices or using software to limit access to games.
  6. Lifestyle changes: Encourage a healthy lifestyle with regular physical activity, a healthy diet, good sleep hygiene and social interaction outside the gaming world.
  7. Education and awareness: Education about the negative consequences of excessive gaming and strategies to manage the urge to game can be an important part of treatment.
  8. Professional help: In some cases, it may be necessary to seek help from a psychologist, psychiatrist or other health professional who specialises in treating addictions.

It is important to remember that treatment can take time and requires commitment from the individual. Recognising the problem and seeking help is the first step towards recovery.

Treatment with CBT online

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

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.

The first step to change

Book an introductory session with a psychologist or therapist today through our website. If the time is not right at the moment, remember you can always come back when you are ready to make a change. Together we make the difficult easier.


12 common questions and answers about video game addiction

What is video game addiction?

Video game addiction, also known as gaming addiction, 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 whether it is a diagnosis or not, 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 difficulty controlling gaming time and continuing to play despite the negative impact on different areas of their lives.

What are the risks of video game addiction?

The potential risks range from problems with our physical and mental health, studies and problems in relationships. It is therefore advisable to seek help if you have this problem.

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. Seek information about the problem if you find it difficult to understand and if you are a parent of a child or young person you may need more support.

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 issues such as anxiety, depression, 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, there are many websites, books, and support groups that can offer additional information and support.

Can video game addiction be treated online?

Yes, our therapists and psychologists offer 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. This includes professional help with treatment and a good support system. 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 step 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 popular method of treating video game addiction. Through CBT, the individual learns to recognise and change negative thought patterns and behaviours that are linked to their addiction. The therapist can work to address the underlying causes of addiction, such as anxiety, depression, or low self-esteem.
  3. Family therapy and counselling: 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 Gamers 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: It may be recommended for the individual take a ‘digital detox’, which means 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 balanced diet, regular exercise, good sleep hygiene and social activities.
  7. Medical treatment: If there are concurrent mental health conditions such as depression or anxiety, medical treatment can be prescribed by a doctor.
  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.

It is important to remember that each individual is unique and 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.

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Written by dominic

Dominic is a Cape Town-based copywriter and editor with a background in psychology.