Gaming Addiction Symptoms: How You Know You’re Addicted
Perhaps you’ll find this surprising: excessive time spent gaming is not among gaming addiction symptoms. While spending lots of time playing video games isn’t necessarily healthy and can contribute to gaming problems, including addiction, time spent gaming isn’t a criterion for gaming disorder or addiction.
According to counselor and writer Dr. Raffael Boccamazzo (2017), “There is a difference between someone who enthusiastically participates in a hobby in their free time and someone who compulsively engages in a behavior.” Gaming addiction falls into the compulsive behavior category.
You can’t tell with certainty if you’re addicted to gaming based on the amount of time you spend, but you can tell by the way your playing is affecting you and the way you’re living your life. Beyond this, you can determine if you have symptoms of gaming addiction in adults and adolescents.
Important Considerations in Gaming Addiction Symptoms
A list of symptoms can be a useful tool in helping you determine if you’re addicted to gaming. Before we get to that, though, it’s important to put gaming addiction symptoms in context. Gaming is a behavior that becomes an addiction when it is all-consuming. The games take up more and more of your time, and your performance in school or at work begins to decline.
Hallmark symptoms of gaming addiction are
- Impaired control over the activity (you can’t control things like when you play, how often you play, how long you play, the intensity of your gaming, and other related factors)
- Increased amounts of time spent gaming (How Many Hours of Video Games is Too Much?)
- Escalation of gaming despite problems it causes
The continued gaming, even when you know it’s causing problems, is one of the key signs of gaming addiction. Each of these signs can be helpful in identifying gaming addiction symptoms. When these are present, mental health professionals begin to consider symptoms.
Online Gaming Addiction Symptoms
The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-5), the authority on mental illness published by the American Psychiatric Association, has a section dedicated to conditions that are being researched for designation as a mental disorder. Internet gaming disorder is one such conditions, and it already has a set of symptoms associated with it.
According to the DSM-5 (2013), there are nine symptoms of gaming addiction. You might have an addiction if, over a period of 12 months, you experience five or more of these online gaming addiction symptoms:
- Preoccupation with gaming and games
- Withdrawal symptoms when not playing
- Development of tolerance, or the need to spend longer amounts of time playing to get the same benefits and enjoyment
- Unsuccessful tries to reduce participation in gaming
- Loss of interest in previously enjoyed activities and hobbies, sole focus is on gaming
- Continued playing despite knowing there’s a problem
- Lying to others about the amount of time spent playing
- Use of video games for escape or to get out of a negative mood
- Loss of relationships, jobs, school performance, and/or other once-important aspects of life
If you’re experiencing at least five of these symptoms, and they’re persistent, you might be addicted to gaming. You can also know if you’re addicted by looking at the consequences of gaming.
Gaming, Symptoms, and Consequences
A gaming addiction, as indicated by the above symptoms, can have dire consequences on someone’s life. In addition to considering how many of the official symptoms you have, consider, too, what problems you’re facing because of gaming.
Gaming can lead to negative effects such as:
- Anxiety is related to gaming addiction, including social phobia
- Poor impulse control
- Sleep difficulties
- Health problems due to decreased physical activity and nutrition
- Relationship problems, including marriage problems and loss of friendships (see My Husband is Addicted to Gaming: You’re Not Alone)
- Declining academic or work performance
- Truancy or absenteeism
- Declining self-care
- Vision and hearing problems
Knowing gaming addiction symptoms will help you determine if you’re addicted. Look, too, at the negative effects of your gaming. If you are facing a lot of negative consequences but can’t stop gaming (this is one of the symptoms of a gaming addiction), you might have a gaming problem. Problems, including gaming addiction, have solutions, and treatment for addiction to gaming is available (Video Game Rehab: Inside Gaming Addiction Treatment Centers).
Peterson, T. (2021, December 15). Gaming Addiction Symptoms: How You Know You’re Addicted, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2023, December 1 from https://www.healthyplace.com/addictions/gaming-disorder/gaming-addiction-symptoms-how-you-know-youre-addicted