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Video Game Addiction

Randi Fredricks, Ph.D.: Fri, Mar 6th 2015

Video game addiction is an impulse control disorder. These types of disorders are characterized by the inability to resist temptation, urge or impulse that can potentially harm oneself or others. Other forms of impulse control disorder include pathological gambling, sex addiction, and compulsive shopping. Video game addiction is sometimes referred to as the pathological or compulsive use of computer games and/or video games.

young boy playing video gameFor some time now, psychologists have suggested that video game addiction should be officially recognized as a psychiatric disorder. In support of this theory, addiction specialists note the fact that gaming addicts exhibit the four hallmarks of addiction:

  • They are unable to control the amount of time spent playing games
  • The increasing dominance of gaming in a person's life
  • The compulsion to play the game, and
  • Psychological behaviors such as withdrawal and an increasing need for a bigger thrill

Like other addictions, there are likely to be co-existing disorders with game addiction. Three-quarters of all addictions have some other form of psychiatric problems and the addiction can be life-threatening. In one extreme case, a 28-year-old South Korean man died of heart failure after playing a computer game for over 48 hours straight.

Not surprisingly, video game-manufacturers have tended to rebuke the notion that their games are associated with psychiatric disorders. Part of the issue is related to parental control. Parents need to be mindful and not use game machines as a easy form of babysitting.

It's the same as any addiction: just because people drink, gamble, or play video games doesn't mean they are addicted. It's only 5 to 10 per cent of people who use video games are addicted.

In 2006, the world's first game addiction clinic was opened in the Netherlands and was overwhelmed with pleas for help from throughout the world. Located in Amsterdam, the gaming detox clinic has already saved 20 plus gamers from wasting their lives in front of a television screen. They first start the treatment by making the addicted person confess that they have no control of playing video games. Then they separate the gamers away from their games. While in this stage, some of the gamers actually experience physical withdrawal symptoms.

One common mistake that people make is giving themselves easy access to their games. If you don't give yourself easy access by getting rid of the games you're hooked on, it makes it much more difficult to play. It can be challenging for a gaming addict to throw away their favorite game, but it's an important part of the recovery process.

What parents can do to prevent their kids from becoming addicts is to keep watch on the amount of time that their kids play. Every second of their spare time should not be on their gaming console.


Brunborg GS, Mentzoni RA, Frøyland LR. Is video gaming, or video game addiction, associated with depression, academic achievement, heavy episodic drinking, or conduct problems? J Behav Addict. 2014 Mar;3(1):27-32. doi: 10.1556/JBA.3.2014.002.

Schmitt ZL, Livingston MG. Video game addiction and college performance among males: results from a 1 year longitudinal study. Cyberpsychol Behav Soc Netw. 2015 Jan;18(1):25-9. doi: 10.1089/cyber.2014.0403.

Shiue I. Self and environmental exposures to drinking, smoking, gambling or video game addiction are associated with adult hypertension, heart and cerebrovascular diseases, allergy, self-rated health and happiness: Japanese General Social Survey, 2010. Int J Cardiol. 2014 Dec 24;181C:403-412. doi: 10.1016/j.ijcard.2014.12.071.


Randi Fredricks, Ph.D.

Dr. Randi Fredricks, Ph.D. is a therapist, researcher and author with a Ph.D. in Psychology and a Doctorate in Naturopathy. She works with individuals and couples and provides therapy for anxiety, depression, addiction, and eating disorders at San Jose Counseling and Psychotherapy. In her private practices in San Jose, CA. Dr. Fredricks has developed a proprietary counseling approach blending alternative medicine with traditional evidenced-based therapies such as cognitive behavioral therapy and client-centered therapies. Her therapy style is sensitive, spontaneous and enlivening. Dr. Fredricks' best-selling books include Healing & Wholeness: Complementary and Alternative Therapies for Mental Health and Fasting: An Exceptional Human Experience. For more about her work, visit

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