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Substance Abuse and Addiction Health Center

Video Game Addiction No Fun

Compulsive video gaming is a modern-day psychological disorder that experts tell WebMD is becoming more and more popular.
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Parents, Take Note

Young and Bakker say the overwhelming majority of video game addicts are males under 30. "It's usually children with poor self-esteem and social problems," Young tells WebMD. "They're intelligent and imaginative but don't have many friends at school." She says a family history of addiction may also be a factor.

If you're concerned your child may be addicted to video games don't dismiss it as a phase, Young says. Keep good documents of the child's gaming behavior, including:

  • Logs of when the child plays and for how long
  • Problems resulting from gaming
  • How the child reacts to time limits

"You need to document the severity of the problem," Young says. "Don't delay seeking professional help; if there is a problem, it will probably only get worse."

Video Game Detox

Treatment for video game addiction is similar to detox for other addictions, with one important difference. Computers have become an important part of everyday life, as well as many jobs, so compulsive gamers can't just look the other way when they see a PC.

"It's like a food addiction," Young explains. "You have to learn to live with food."

Because video game addicts can't avoid computers, they have to learn to use them responsibly. Bakker says that means no gaming. As for limiting game time to an hour a day, he compares that to "an alcoholic saying he's only going to drink beer."

Bakker says the toughest part of treating video game addicts is that "it's a little bit more difficult to show somebody they're in trouble. Nobody's ever been put in jail for being under the influence of [a game]."

The key, he says, is to show gamers they are powerless over their addiction, and then teach them "real-life excitement as opposed to online excitement."

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