Many enjoy playing video games, either online, or on a game console, to relax or just for entertainment purposes. But, like most other things in life, one can compulsively play video games to the point that the obsession becomes an addiction. Using the term gaming addiction will be not be used on this web page because it has been used to refer to a gambling addiction (gambling disorder) and, alternatively, to indicate an addiction to playing video games.

Unfortunately, for those with a video game addiction, the signs and symptoms that are displayed because of this disorder are very much like those of alcoholism and drug addiction and can be severe. For example, both can cause mental health issues, medical problems, and even death. For those who wait to address their addiction and compulsion to play video games until they are forced to do so likely have an array of profound consequences that will need to be dealt with in an intense and organized fashion.

The compulsion to play video games is exploited by the companies and people who develop and distribute video games. Rightfully so, they are in the business of pleasing their customers. So, the more interesting, interactive, realistic, and playable a video game is, the higher the customer satisfaction. This scenario can be likened to cigarettes, and even to marijuana and other street drugs, as well as food items that are very rewarding. These processes release pleasure chemicals in the brain, including dopamine, among others, which creates pleasure, euphoria, and positive memories of the event.

Because dopamine is the neurotransmitter involved in survival, rewarding behavior that protects one from harm and leads one to seek protective resources and behaviors, playing video games, drinking alcohol, smoking cigarettes, or eating foods high in fat and sugar content can all lead to compulsive behaviors. This can occur in individuals given the right environment with the right genetics and, in those with other emotional and mental health issues.

From the gravest consequence of video game addiction, death – yes, several have been reported, even in young individuals, to less tangible consequences, such as relationship woes, financial problems, and mental health and emotional problems, video game addiction is real and there are many who are suffering because of it. First, one cannot be productive in other areas of life, if he/she sits on the sofa or in a chair playing video games for hours on end. This lack of productivity can lead to problems at work and at home, as well as medical problems associated with poor nutritional choices and lack of exercise and movement.

There are many warnings about sitting still for long-haul flights. It is well known by healthcare providers, and the public, that sitting for hours on end with little movement is unhealthy. But, these same warnings have not made their way to common public knowledge when related to video game playing. Even though playing video games can lead to internet relationships and competition in the online world, they do not lead to the same type of real intimacy that comes from taking a walk in the park with a loved one, or working out at the gym with a buddy. Other medical problems that can arise from playing video games are neurologic and orthopedic damage to the upper or lower extremities from repetitive movements, and eyesight problems.

The mental health and emotional problems associated with those who are addicted to playing video games may be a result of the addiction, or may have preexisted this compulsion. Either way, the more one plays video games, the more isolated they may become, with depression and anxiety setting in. Sleep disorders are not uncommon in the setting of video game addiction because the addict gets less than the optimal amount of sleep either because they are actively playing a video game, or because they are fantasizing about playing, planning their next binge.

If the above consequences aren’t enough to provoke a video game addict to seek treatment, the opportunities that are lost over and over because of the inability to get out of the chair and shut off the video game system or computer. Rather than improving oneself through education, socialization, or seeking new and improved job opportunities, video game addicts sit and stare at a screen. This is a debilitating life that requires understanding from loved ones and qualified treatment providers.

There exist many similarities between video game addicts and gambling addicts. Both sets of addicts tend to have other emotional and mental health problems, and other addictions, such as alcoholism, opiate addiction, or stimulant addiction. The mental health disorders, emotional problems, and other all other addictions are best treated simultaneously with the video game addiction.

Because video game addiction does not exist as a formal diagnosis in the DSM, the coding book published by the American Psychiatric Association, and often used by third party payers, reimbursement for video game addiction treatment is often obtained by using the diagnostic code that applies to the other, coexisting disorders.

Drug and alcohol rehabs are uniquely suited to treat those patients who are destroying their lives with a video game addiction. Because residential and inpatient drug and alcohol treatment centers treat the disease of addiction at the fundamental level, video game addiction can easily be treated in these institutions. Further, drug and alcohol rehabs that have nursing and medical care can also treat all coexisting medical problems and dual diagnosis disorders.

To learn more about your video game addiction, or a loved one’s habitual video game playing, please reach out to our addiction specialists at the National Addiction Institute by calling 844-889-8140. NAI will never share your information, unless it is requested and is open 24-hours a day, 7-days a week. If you choose to do so, you may also simply complete the online Contact Form.