Is there such a thing as a video game/online gaming addiction?
Addiction is usually linked to substance abuse, however, it is clear that there are some behavioral addictions. Among behavioral addictions, it is possible to recognize behaviors like gambling, for instance, but in recent decades a behavior that has raised concern is compulsive gaming. But is there such a thing as an addiction to video games? Let’s take a look.
Video games are a very recent phenomenon but they have become incredibly popular. The video game industry has surpassed the film industry in terms of money-making capabilities, and most people play or have played at least some type of video game. However, for some people, the gaming behavior becomes compulsive.
What determines whether a behavior can be seen as harmful or compulsive? Like with addiction to drugs, the problem with gaming comes when it becomes to interfere with daily life. For instance, a person with problematic gaming behaviors will play all night or skip school to keep playing or call in sick at work to keep going. Gaming becomes problematic when it leads to significant impairments in one or more areas of the individual’s life, like their work, relationships, education, or something else.
At the moment, there is an on-going process of research in regards to addiction to video games. It is not yet fully included and accepted as a mental disorder but it is being studied and will likely be included in future editions of diagnostic manuals like the DSM. However, even though there is still doubt concerning its official recognition as a disorder, there are already people who find that gaming might severally hurt their life.
People have become addicted to gaming to the point of severely neglecting other aspects of their life. On the very extreme (and rare) side of the spectrum of addiction, it is possible to find individuals who have died while gaming due to not taking a break for 2 days in Korea or a mother who neglected her child in favor of a virtual farm. These cases are rare, however, there are people who have significantly focused on gaming to the exclusion of other things, for instance, not pursuing any work or education, spending significant amounts of time and money on online gaming, or neglecting any relationships outside of these games. People with problematic gaming behavior may experience social isolation, mood swings, an intense focus on gaming and a desire to return to it whenever doing other things, and other issues.
While games do not have the addictive properties of a drug, they do have some characteristics that make them addictive or promote a compulsive gaming behavior. Many games are designed with the principles of behavioral conditioning in mind, so that they encourage the players to stay hooked and invest a lot of their time and money into a game. Some people may be more susceptible than others to this type of conditioning.
As happens with drug addiction, some people might, in general, have a higher vulnerability to developing compulsive gaming behaviors. Games might provide fulfillment for basic psychological needs, like belonging and connectedness, capacity to achieve things and fulfill goals, and others that might be more difficult to obtain in daily life. People who are already socially isolated or who struggle with different aspects of their lives might game compulsively because it provides a greater sense of achievement and connection than other aspects of their life.
Compulsive gaming is being recognized as a problem more and more but treatment for this issue is still developing. The first rehabilitation centers have opened in different places of the world but these are still not as accessible as drug addiction centers. Individual therapy and support groups for other individuals with these issues might be helpful to anyone who is struggling with this issue.
Overall, one might consider gaming as a behavior that can become an addiction as happens with other behaviors, like gambling. While most people are able to enjoy video games as a hobby, some might turn to it compulsively. The problem of compulsive gaming is still being studied to identify the best approaches to treatment and causes. However, if this issue is causing distress or impairments in different areas of an individual’s life, it is important to seek help and support and take it seriously.