When does gaming become an addiction?

Unlike substance abuse or gambling addiction, video game addiction is not a formally recognised addiction. We do however see a number of young people play games so frequently that it clearly has a negative impact on their lives. With symptoms and impact comparable to addiction, it is important to be aware of the risk of video gaming.

Several studies have been undertaken to define the percentage of gamers that end up playing excessively. Results range from 5 to 15% of gamers play at a frequency which leads to a negative impact on their life.

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More research

Understanding and assisting excessive players of video games: A community psychology perspective, King, D. L., & Delfabbro, P.H. (2009).

The Role of Context in Online Gaming Excess and Addiction: Some Case Study Evidence, Griffiths 2010

Video-Gaming Among High School Students: Health Correlates, Gender, Differences, and Problematic Gaming’, Rani A. Desai, Suchitra Krishnan-Sarin, Dana Cavallo and Marc N. Potenza, 2010

Assessing problematic video gaming using the Theory of Planned Behavior: A longitudinal study of Dutch young people. Maria C. Haagsma, Daniel L. King, Marcel E. Pieterse, Oscar Peters


gaming addiction

What is excessive video gaming?

When is video game playing excessive? Is it 10 hours per week, 20 hours, or more? It is impossible to put a figure on this. Excessive gaming has similar symptoms to addiction: it becomes completely absorbing for players, often used as a coping strategy. Players’ tolerance to the game increases therefore more time is spent playing to get the same effect on their mood. Players often experience withdrawal symptoms when trying to quit gaming and can relapse. We define excessive video gaming as playing so often that it has a negative impact on the person’s life.

Here are some examples of negative impact excessive video gaming can have:

  • missing school, work or other important commitments
  • losing or neglecting significant relationships
  • physical health impacts (like back pain or strain)
  • sleeplessness
  • Reduced mental wellbeing

What are the signs of video game addiction?

  • Psychological signs
–   Becoming depressed or anxious
–   Becoming angry or violent when prevented from playing
–   Decreased interest in school, work and/or other hobbies
  • Physical signs
–   Difficulty sleeping
–   Poor eating habits
–   Decrease in overall physical health
  • Behavioural signs
–   Inability to quit playing
–   Increased amount of time playing video games
–   Lying
–   Decrease in social connection or time spent with friend

Prevalence of excessive gaming

Several studies have been undertaken to define the percentage of gamers that end up playing excessively. Results range from 5 to 15 % of players.

In a survey of 4028 adolescents (Desai, Krishnan-Sarin, Cavallo & Potenza, 2010), 51.2% (2062 adolescents) reported that they played video games and of those, 4.9% (101 adolescents) reported that they have problems with gaming such as trying to cut back and experiencing an irresistible urge to play. The survey found that males are more likely to report these problems (5.8%) than females (3.0%).

In an article written by Hagedorn and Young (2011), they stated that 90% of American youths play video and/or online games, with approximately 10-15% meeting criteria for addiction; the majority of whom are male (Chak & Leung, 2004; Griffiths & Hunt; Grusser, et al.; Khan as cited by Hagedorn & Young, 2011).

Where to get help?

If you are concerned about your own or someone else’s video game behaviour, please contact us and we will assist you in finding appropriate help.


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