Symptoms of Video Game Addiction in Teens

Although it hasn't been given an "official" diagnosis, addiction-like behaviors with computer, video, and Internet gaming have noticeably increased among both teenagers and adults. Like any addictive behavior, there are signs to look for if you suspect your teen might have a gaming addiction. Your teen need only exhibit two or three of these symptoms for his behavior to be considered "addictive."

  • Preoccupation
    Someone who is addicted to computer, video, or Internet gaming often exhibits an unusual preoccupation with the game or computer when he is away from it. The teen could seem distracted, irritable, or disinterested and may talk about the game almost constantly.
  • Downplaying Computer Use
    It's common for someone with addictive, computer-related behaviors to downplay the amount of time she spends in front of the TV or computer. The person may make excuses, saying she "needs" to be online, or may outright lie.
  • Lack of Control
    A person who is addicted, or at risk of becoming addicted to gaming, is unable to control the amount of time she spends on the computer. She may go online with the intent to spend 15 or 20 minutes, but will keep extending the time until several hours have passed.
  • Loss of Time
    Along the same lines, a person may sit down at his computer, again with the intent to spend only a few minutes, but completely lose track of time and suddenly find that several hours have passed. It is not unusual for someone with a gaming addiction to play through the night and only realize how much time has passed when the sun begins to rise.
  • Negative Impact on Other Areas of Life
    Because the person spends so much time on the computer or video game console, other areas of life are neglected. He may grow distant from friends and family who had previously been close. Homework may go unfinished, causing grades to slip. In more extreme cases, the teen may even neglect personal hygiene, choosing to play video games rather than taking a shower.
  • Hiding From Negative or Uncomfortable Feelings or Situations
    Some people become addicted to gaming because they use it to self-medicate. When confronted with situations or feelings that are uncomfortable (feeling sad, arguing with a friend, or getting a bad grade), the person may "hide" in the game as a method of avoidance.
  • Defensiveness
    When confronted or asked about his time spent gaming, a person may become defensive. Denial is often an indication that something is wrong, especially if the person seems unconcerned that friends and family feel neglected or left out of his life.
  • Misuse of Money
    Someone who is addicted to video, computer, or Internet gaming will spend a disproportionate amount of money on computer-related items. The person will seem to be continually upgrading hardware, software packages, and accessories. This becomes an even greater problem if the person spends money that should be used for bills, groceries, and other necessities.
  • Mixed Feelings
    As with any addiction, use of the "substance" – in this case, the video game – initially causes euphoric feelings, but that euphoria is quickly followed by guilt. Guilt may be felt either over what the person is doing while online or simply the amount of time he is spending at the computer.
Though this list is not exhaustive, it provides warning signs for parents, friends, and other family members to look for if they are concerned about someone's use of video, computer, or Internet games. This list can also be used as a self-diagnosis tool for those who believe they may have a problem.

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