Gaming Addiction

Updated: July 23, 2022

Gaming addiction, or gaming disorder, is a behavioural condition characterised by excessive and compulsive engagement in video games, leading to impaired daily functioning, neglect of responsibilities, and negative impacts on mental, emotional, and social well-being.

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What Is Gaming Addiction?

Gaming addiction, officially recognised as “gaming disorder” by the World Health Organization (WHO), refers to a problematic pattern of behaviour where individuals become excessively preoccupied with playing video games, to the detriment of their daily lives. This compulsive gaming can lead to negative consequences, such as neglecting responsibilities, disrupted sleep patterns, and strained relationships.


People with gaming addiction often show signs similar to substance use disorders, like withdrawal symptoms when unable to play, an increase in time spent gaming, and failed attempts to cut down or control their gaming habits. The intense focus on gaming can result in a decreased interest in other activities, reduced academic or work performance, and deteriorating physical and mental health.


The allure of virtual worlds, competition, and in-game achievements can create a cycle of reward that reinforces continued play. This cycle, combined with the social connections fostered within gaming communities, can make it challenging for individuals to recognise when their gaming habits have become problematic. While many people enjoy gaming healthily and moderately, gaming addiction requires professional intervention, involving therapies that address the underlying causes, modify behaviour, and promote a balanced lifestyle.

What Are The Symptoms?

Avoiding Life

Using gaming to ‘live’ in a different reality and escape from emotional distress, anxiety, or stress.

Continued Use Despite Negative Consequences

Persisting with gaming despite the negative impact on relationships, physical health, or mental well-being.

Deceptive Behaviour

Lying to family or friends about the amount of time spent gaming.


Needing to play for longer periods to achieve the same level of satisfaction or excitement, often leading to irregular sleep patterns.

Loss Of Control

Difficulty limiting the amount of time spent gaming, unsuccessful attempts to cut back, and spending increasing amounts of time playing.

Loss Of Interest

Decreased interest in activities previously enjoyed, as gaming becomes the primary source of entertainment.

Neglecting Responsibilities

Neglecting school, work, household chores, or social obligations due to excessive gaming.

Physical Symptoms

Experiencing physical issues like eyestrain, headaches, and sleep disturbances due to extended gaming sessions.


Constantly thinking about gaming, even when not playing, and prioritising it over other activities.

Problems With Relationships

Strained relationships due to neglecting one’s social life, family time, or responsibilities.

Withdrawal Symptoms

Experiencing irritability, restlessness, or even depression when unable to play games.

What Causes Gaming Disorder?

It’s important to understand that experiencing one or some of the symptoms doesn’t necessarily indicate gaming addiction. A diagnosis requires a pattern of these symptoms that significantly impairs daily functioning and well-being. Let’s turn now to some possible causes.

Reward System: Video games often incorporate reward mechanisms that trigger the brain’s pleasure centres, leading to the release of dopamine. This reinforcement can create a cycle of compulsive gaming.

Escapism: Video games provide an escape from real-life stressors, making them appealing to individuals seeking relief from anxiety, depression, or other emotional challenges.

Social Interaction: Online multiplayer games offer social connections and a sense of belonging, particularly significant for individuals with limited offline social networks.

Personality Traits: Certain personality traits, like sensation-seeking tendencies or a predisposition to addictive behaviour, can increase vulnerability to gaming addiction.

Accessibility: The widespread availability of games on various devices and platforms makes gaming easily accessible and conducive to excessive play.

Peer Influence: Friends or online communities that prioritise gaming can contribute to the normalisation of excessive play.

Lack of Coping Skills: Inadequate coping mechanisms for handling stress, boredom, or negative emotions might lead individuals to turn to gaming as a way to cope.

Underlying Issues: Gaming addiction can sometimes be a symptom of underlying mental health issues, such as depression, anxiety, or attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).

Environmental Factors: Environments with limited alternative recreational options or parental supervision can contribute to excessive gaming.

Gaming Design: Some games are intentionally designed to be addictive, using techniques like intermittent rewards and progression systems to keep players engaged.

It’s important to recognise that not everyone who engages in gaming will develop an addiction. The interplay of these factors varies from person to person. Prevention and intervention strategies focus on fostering healthy gaming habits, promoting emotional well-being, and developing strong coping skills.

How Phinity Therapy Can Help

Our approach to gaming addiction typically employs a tailored approach to help individuals regain control over their gaming habits and lead healthier lives. This begins with:

Assessment: Our therapists conduct a comprehensive evaluation to understand the extent of the addiction, its impact on daily functioning, and any underlying issues.

Psychoeducation: We aim will help you to understand gaming addiction; its potential consequences, and the mechanisms that contributed to its development for you.

Cognitive-Behavioural Therapy (CBT): CBT helps identify and challenge negative thought patterns and beliefs associated with gaming, replacing them with healthier perspectives.

Skill Building: We will guide you by teaching you about coping skills to manage stress, boredom, and emotions, offering alternative ways to handle triggers that lead to excessive gaming.

Time Management: You can also learn to structure your time more effectively, balancing gaming with other responsibilities, hobbies, and social interactions.

Setting Boundaries: Our therapist help clients establish clear boundaries for gaming, creating rules around when, where, and how much they can play.

Behavioural Interventions: Techniques like exposure therapy may be used to gradually reduce gaming time while managing withdrawal symptoms and anxiety.

Family Involvement: If family dynamics contribute to the addiction, family therapy can address communication, set limits, and support recovery.

Building Resilience: We will work with you to strengthen emotional resilience and self-esteem, reducing the need for excessive gaming as an escape.

Relapse Prevention: You will learn to recognise triggers and develop strategies to prevent relapse, creating a support network to maintain progress.

Addressing Underlying Issues: We will address any co-occurring mental health conditions, such as depression or anxiety, that may contribute to the addiction.

Our therapists will often offer an integrative approach, drawing from various therapeutic modalities. The goal is to empower individuals with the tools they need to make healthier choices around gaming, regain a balanced lifestyle, and improve overall well-being.

What Causes Gaming Disorder?How Phinity Therapy Can Help


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