What Is Computer and Video Game Addiction?

For most young people, playing games on a computer, video game console, or handheld device is just a regular part of the day. Most are able to juggle the multiple demands of school, sports, work or chores, and family life. Gaming becomes an addiction when it starts to interfere with a person's relationships or their pursuit of other goals, such as good grades or being a contributing member of a sports team.

Computer and video games, especially the massive multi-online role-playing games (or MMORPGs) such as "World of Warcraft," allow players to behave very differently from their normal persona. A shy child can suddenly became gregarious; a passive child can become aggressive.

Young people, who often feel powerless in their daily lives, suddenly have the ability to command armies, drive (and crash) cars, and wreak havoc on a virtual world with no real-life consequences. This is seductive!

And when that boy or girl is already finding it a challenge in the "real world" to make friends, computer and video games offer a way to interact with others in their "virtual world," without the distress of face-to-face interactions.

Video game and Internet addiction are not actual Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM)-IV classifications, although the American Medical Association is reviewing research in order to determine whether they should be included in the next update of the manual in 2010. Many mental health professionals feel that video games are similar to gambling as an addictive process. By some estimates, as many as 10 percent of gamers exhibit addictive behavior.

Here are some symptoms of game addiction - the more of these symptoms you can identify, the greater the need to get professional help:

  • Most non-school hours are spent on the computer or playing video games
  • Falling asleep in school
  • Falling behind with assignments
  • Worsening grades
  • Lying about computer or video game use
  • Choosing to use the computer or play video games, rather than see friends
  • Dropping out of other social groups (clubs or sports)
  • Being irritable when not playing a video game or being on the computer

There also are physical symptoms that may point to addiction:

  • Carpal tunnel syndrome
  • Sleep disturbances
  • Backaches or neck aches
  • Headaches
  • Dry eyes
  • Failure to eat regularly or neglecting personal hygiene

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