Video games are commonly used as entertainment throughout the world. When played properly, with moderation, there is little chance that video game use will turn into video game addiction or cause adverse health effects. That said, it is noteworthy that the prevalence of video games and extreme usage can lead to negative consequences.
This notion has led to considerable research into the topic on whether video game usage should be considered a disorder, like gambling disorder, or an addiction consistent with alcoholism or drug overuse. Whereas the definition of excessive use has not yet been established, it is important to recognize that excessive video game usage can have just as many negative effects as drug or alcohol addiction if left unregulated, and in some cases, untreated.
Video game addiction is uncommon. Studies show that among users of video games, addiction ranges from a low of 0.6% to a high of 6.0%. Stated in another way, anywhere from 94 to 99 percent of video game users do not become addicted or develop severe side effects. The message here is that there can be an addiction to gaming, however, it is not common and should not be over-diagnosed. The studies make it clear that simply spending lots of time playing video games is not evidence of addiction.
Is it a Video Game Addiction?
So, how can video game addiction be determined? The American Psychological Association (APA) is proposing that a person receive the diagnosis of Internet Gaming Disorder, if at least five of the following nine characteristics apply to that person:
- Preoccupation: Spends lots of time thinking about games, even when not playing them.
- Withdrawal: Feels restless when unable to play games.
- Tolerance: Needs to play more, or play more powerful games, to get the same excitement as before.
- Reduce: Feels he or she should play less but is unable to do so.
- Give up other activities: Reduces participation in other recreational activities.
- A person has had continued overuse of Internet games even with the knowledge of how much they impact a person’s life.
- The person lied to others about his or her Internet game usage.
- The person uses Internet games to relieve anxiety or guilt–it’s a way to escape.
- The person has lost or put at risk and opportunity or relationship because of Internet games.
It is important to restate that Internet Gaming Disorder is not an “official” disorder. With the ubiquity and high use of video games, the APA is encouraging further research on the topic.
Impact of Video Game Addiction
Just like other activities that are overused, video games can have harmful effects, including:
- Increased risk of ADHD due to the highly interactive nature of video games.
- Learning disabilities that result from slowed responses versus the intensity of video games.
- Increased risk of light-induced seizures from video games.
- Musculoskeletal disorders of the upper extremities from sitting for prolonged periods of time or from only using the upper body (extremity muscles).
- Increased weight gain as a result of not exercising.
- Lowered metabolism.
- Aggressive thoughts and behaviors especially present in children who excessively play video games when they are under 10 years old.
- Spending reduced time with family, peers, etc., resulting in poor social interaction skills.
Not all researchers agree that video gaming is a harmful or addictive activity. Many believe that video games expand the imagination, give children the opportunity to work collaboratively, and sharpen cognitive skills. If a person spends most of their time playing video games at the expense of schoolwork, physical exercise, family events, or social activities, the benefits of gaming seem less certain.
What Can You Do?
What should a person do if they feel that they are overusing video games? Since video gaming overuse is a recently recognized problem clinicians are developing best practices for treating it. The good news is that going cold turkey on video games is much gentler on your body than trying to drop drugs or alcohol without a doctor’s help. You may be irritable, and you’ll certainly have trouble avoiding your game of choice, but you’re not going to spend days feeling physically ill. Seeking out a healthier source of activity—like exercise—can help the individual to get through the toughest period.
If you have questions or concerns about video game usage, please view our articles or contact our staff at North Shore Family Services via phone: 847-668-4295, x700, or email: firstname.lastname@example.org.