Video games have become an extremely popular pastime among young people and adults alike. However, there can be risks on developing some negative consequences if video games are played to excess. It’s important that people realize that extreme cases of video game addictions can be almost as bad as drug or alcohol addictions.

Gaming is a multibillion-dollar industry attracting millions of kids, teens, young adults, and older adults. Games can be played on handheld devices, computers, and on the television with video game machines. People actually can become addicted to gaming, playing for excessive hours every day and neglecting their health, relationships, jobs, and other aspects of life.

What is Video Game Addiction?

Video game addiction is considered a legitimate psychological disorder, one that is becoming more prevalent.  Some studies indicate that video games can have powerful effects on the developing minds of young people. Gaming addiction is a behavioral problems marked by a preoccupation with gaming, mood altering effects of gaming, withdrawal symptoms after stopping gaming, and development of interpersonal conflict due to gaming.

The following are signs of video game addiction:

  • Thinking aspects of game are reality, placing excessive importance of video games on life.
    Gaming rather than spending time with friends or family.
    Gaming rather than playing outside or with toys.
    Playing video games for extremely long periods regularly.
    Playing over 10 hours per week.
    Spending most of free time playing video games.
    Having anxiety over anticipating a new game or ability to play a game.

Compulsive gaming behavior can look very similar to substance addiction behavior, and can even lead to withdrawal symptoms when an addict stops playing. These can include side effects like insomnia, anger, aggression, or depression, all of which are treatable with time and therapy if needed.

Potential Side Effects of Video Game Addiction

Like any addiction, video game addiction can have a host of negative side effects.

An increased risk of developing ADD or ADHD due to high interactivity of the games
Learning issues
Increased weight gain due to lack of exercise
Reduced metabolism
Aggressive thoughts and behaviors
Poor social skills
Over competitiveness
Disrupted sleep patterns

If video game playing is kept in moderation, there is little risk of addiction or side effects. However, when video games start to interfere with a person’s life, it may be necessary to seek treatment. Video addiction may also serve as a gateway addiction to developing a substance abuse issue later on.

Protecting Young People from Gaming Addiction

Parents should be proactive about making sure their kids don’t overindulge in video games.

Here are some simple tips to keep kids from becoming addicted:

  • Limit gaming time to one hour or less a day. Just like you want to limit t.v. and screen time, you want to limit video game time as well.
  • Keep track of how much time your kids spend on gaming.
  • Pay attention to problems that might develop like a negative attitude, poor performance in school, or not taking care of themselves.

Treatment for Video Game Addiction

Treatment might be necessary for people who are badly addicted to video games. It may not require inpatient rehab like with drugs and alcohol, but a person may need therapy or counseling and work some kind of program to get free of it. Video games are often used as a form of escape to not deal with life’s other problems, so recovering addicts need to learn coping skills to deal with stress and triggers that would make them want to escape.