5 Signs of a Video Game Addiction

Posted by Conor Murphy on July 10, 2012 in Gaming Lifestyle -- Share:

Do the people in your life give you a lot of grief because you like to play video games more than the average person? Alright, maybe “more” is a bit too vague. Let’s say your hand has started to mold to the shape of your controller and you see Zerglings everywhere you go. So what?

So what is right.

There’s nothing wrong with video games being your primary hobby; it can be as enjoyable and fulfilling as golfing, fine dining or gardening. Playing video games offers a variety of advantages, from being a cost effective way to enjoy an evening to enhancing your brain’s problem solving ability.

There is a catch, however (isn’t there always?). Gaming can become a problem. It isn’t really related to how much you game, so much as how you adapt your lifestyle to gaming. The biggest distinction between addicts and hardcore gamers isn’t what they’re doing with the games – it’s what they’re not doing in the rest of their lives.

A research report titled “The Role of Context in Online Gaming Excess and Addiction: Some Case Study Evidence” states, “It is argued that online gaming addiction should be characterized by the extent to which excessive gaming impacts negatively on other areas of the gamers’ lives rather than the amount of time spent playing.” This means avid video game playing doesn’t become an addiction until it impairs your ability to do other things.

Video game addiction is a serious issue, but we’re not trying to scare you or make you feel guilty. Healthy hardcore gaming is the best! But because we care, we’ve put together a list of five signs to help you tell the difference between a healthy hobby and a harmful habit.

1. Anger over having to stop

It’s definitely OK to have a lot of fun while playing video games – that is the point of entertainment after all! But what happens when you have to return to the world of responsibility? According to videogameaddiction.org, becoming angry or upset because you have to stop playing a game is a sign that the game might have too big of a hold over your psychological well-being.

2. Excessively defending or lying about the habit

If you have to lie about how much you enjoy a hobby, it’s a sign that something may not be right. And players who don’t try to hide the amount of time they dedicate to game playing may show other signs – they may become angry when challenged about their gaming or spend an excessive amount of effort trying to defend the amount of time they play.

3. Neglecting other areas of life

CBS News highlighted a specific case in which video game playing went too far. In this article a mother tells CBS how her son went from an academically successful, outgoing student to a reclusive individual who failed two of his 10th grade classes.

This is the big thing that separates an addict from a healthy gamer. When video games cause people to neglect other areas, their health and quality of life can suffer. Serious addicts may not even be able to find time to eat or sleep! And an addiction doesn’t always have to cause serious health issues to be a problem. Addicts may also stop other healthy lifestyle behaviors, such as going out with friends, working or attending school to play video games.

4. Spending too much money on games

This one is a big warning sign for adults. Those who stress their budgets by buying too many video games may not have enough resources to pay for other major financial commitments – bills, loans, tuition, etc. This doesn’t mean you should deprive yourself of getting that awesome new game! Just try to be smart about your spending and create a gaming budget. It might sound like it’s taking some of the fun out of playing video games, but by allocating a responsible amount of money each month for gaming you’ll be able to get your fill without causing yourself more stressed later.

5. Negative social behavior

Even video game addicts who don’t actively try to close themselves off from the rest of the world may still unintentionally damage their social skills. According to the Cold Creek Wellness Center, video game withdrawal may cause mood problems that make it difficult for addicts to interact with others in a healthy way.

“The addict feels a dependence on the gaming to get by, just to get through the day. It is an obsession,” the post states. “So, when the gaming is removed it feels earth-shattering to the addict. On top of that, studies are beginning to show that dopamine is affected in the brain of gaming addicts, not unlike drug addicts, participating in the development of a true physiological addiction.”

To sum things up, as an avid gamer, take some time to reflect on whether you show any of the signs above. Although the American Medical Association does not yet recognize video game addiction as a mental illness, former AMA president Dr. Ronald Davis wrote an article that discussed negative psychological and physical effects that can be caused by overusing video games. Even if it is not a full-blown addiction, using video games to the extent that it impacts everyday life can be a sign of other psychological issues, he said.

If you feel you’re toeing the line between loving games and being a slave to games, reach out for some help. Nothing wrong with using a Strategy Guide for real-world problems.

Do you know someone who struggled to pull themselves away from video games? How were they able to get over the addiction? Let us know!

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Conor is a Marketing Manager with Big Fish, working out of the Seattle office. In his spare time he enjoys watching science documentaries and playing old school adventure games. Get in touch with him on Twitter! or Google+