When does gaming become an addiction?

 The World Health Organisation decided to include ‘Gaming Disorder’ in the ICD 11 (International Classification of Diseases). Gaming Disorder was classified as an addictive behaviour disorder.

Earlier the American Psychiatric Association included Gaming Disorder in the DSM-5 (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders) as a condition that requires further study.

Despite these decision by the above authorities, there is furious debate between researchers about what gaming disorder is exactly, what the symptoms are and whether this should be considered a ‘real’ addiction.

Regardless of this debate, we hear reports of (mostly) young people spending all their time playing video games.  It’s fair to say that they have replaced the real-world with a virtual alternative. They care more about their lives within the game than their real world lives. 

So regardless of the debate about what gaming disorder or video game addiction actually is, we see that in some cases video games are used to excess and they can have a real negative impact on a person’s life. 

Resources to help keep gaming a healthy form of entertainment.

Get these resources to ensure a balanced approach to gaming at home:

  • 5 in depth gaming concepts factsheets covering dopamine, rewards schedules, immersion and more.
  • The Parent’s Workbook for Dealing with Gaming Issues at Home to help you with managing behaviours at home.
  • All 9 parenting tools/factsheets giving you heaps of ideas and advice on how to deal with gaming at home.
  • All 14 information factsheets in the Info Pack giving you information about the risks and benefits of gaming.


For more information, tools and resources please download our parent’s, professional’s or school’s pack.

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


What is Gaming Disorder?

Gaming disorder is defined as a pattern of gaming behavior characterized by impaired control over gaming, increasing priority given to gaming over other activities to the extent that gaming takes precedence over other interests and daily activities, and continuation or escalation of gaming despite the occurrence of negative consequences.

For gaming disorder to be diagnosed, the behaviour pattern must be of sufficient severity to result in significant impairment in personal, family, social, educational, occupational or other important areas of functioning and would normally have been evident for at least 12 months.

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

The Symptoms of Gaming Disorder

The proposed symptoms of internet gaming disorder include:

  • Preoccupation with gaming
  • Withdrawal symptoms when gaming is taken away or not possible (sadness, anxiety, irritability)
  • Tolerance, the need to spend more time gaming to satisfy the urge
  • Inability to reduce playing, unsuccessful attempts to quit gaming
  • Giving up other activities, loss of interest in previously enjoyed activities due to gaming
  • Continuing to game despite problems
  • Deceiving family members or others about the amount of time spent on gaming
  • The use of gaming to relieve negative moods, such as guilt or hopelessness
  • Risk, having jeopardized or lost a job or relationship due to gaming

Prevalence of excessive gaming

Several studies have been undertaken to define the percentage of gamers that end up playing excessively. Results range from 1 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 purchase our parents pack to receive not just a lot of information, but also tools and resources that will help you.

Contact us for help or more info

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