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Gaming addiction is a form of impulse control disorder, characterised by having an overwhelming urge to play video games in an excessive and ongoing manner. This serious behavioural addiction can affect your health, wellbeing and general quality of life.

As well as playing video games regularly and obsessively, the following are all signs that you, or someone you know, may be struggling with compulsive gaming.

Psychological symptoms of gaming addiction:

  • Building a psychological tolerance to gaming, meaning that you need to play video games on a more frequent basis, for longer amounts of time and with increasing levels of difficulty, in order to experience the desired ‘rush’
  • Experiencing psychological withdrawal symptoms such as irritability, restlessness and anxiety when you haven’t played video games for a certain amount of time, or if you are unable to game for as long as you want to
  • Using gaming in order to improve your mood, deal with difficult emotions, or to mask underlying symptoms of mental health conditions such as depression and anxiety
  • Intense and overwhelming cravings to play video games
  • Mood swings
  • Impatience
  • Defensiveness
  • Increased temper and agitation
  • Exacerbation of any existing mental health problems

Behavioural/social symptoms of gaming addiction:

  • Feeling as though you have lost control over how much you play video games, and that this has taken over your life
  • Finding that you’re unable to stop playing video games, no matter how much you may want to
  • Continuing to play video games on a regular and ongoing basis, despite the negative consequences that you have experienced as a result of your gaming behaviours
  • Experiencing obsessive thoughts about gaming – finding that you are unable to stop thinking about your next gaming session, or going over and over previous gaming sessions in your head
  • Playing video games for longer than you had originally planned – you often find that hours and hours have gone by while you’re gaming, without you even realising
  • Poor performance and/or attendance at work, as gaming has taken over your life and you’re unable to stop thinking about it
  • Relationship problems and breakdowns as a result of your incessant gaming
  • Withdrawing from family and friends, leading to you becoming socially isolated. This in itself can then increase your gaming behaviours as a way of dealing with feelings of loneliness
  • Concealing or downplaying the amount of time you spend gaming
  • Denying that you have a problem to yourself and others
  • Loss of interest in hobbies, activities, events or responsibilities that were once important to you

Physical symptoms of gaming addiction:

  • Sleep deprivation due to playing video games late at night and sometimes all night
  • Headaches and other symptoms of dehydration
  • Poor nutrition and weight loss due to not taking enough time out from gaming to eat well

What are the long-term effects of gaming addiction?

Gaming addiction can also result in a whole host of long-term negative effects such as:

  • Strained or ruined relationships
  • Family breakdowns
  • Job loss and unemployment

This page was reviewed by Sarina Wheatman (FDAP) in November 2019 and is scheduled to be reviewed again in November 2021.

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