Internet Gaming Disorder: When Entertainment Turns Into Addiction

Internet Gaming Disorder (IGD) may follow the same trajectory as other addictions.

For most, gaming is not a problem

Internet gaming is wildly popular. According to the Entertainment Software Association, nearly two-thirds of American homes have at least one person who plays video games. And that’s not just kids. Nearly 160 million adults play games on the internet. Of that number, 45% are women. As a major source of entertainment, games are highly engaging and competitive. For most people, internet gaming is stimulating and enjoyable.

When gaming turns into addiction

But some people cross the line from enthusiastic focus on gaming to distressed addiction.  That means their use of video games has progressed from use to misuse, and then abuse. It’s much the same trajectory as occurs with other addictions, such as alcoholism and substance use disorders.

Symptoms of gaming addiction

Like other addictions, internet gaming disorder (IGD) can create significant impairment or distress in a person’s life. Symptoms may include:

  • Preoccupation with gaming
  • Withdrawal symptoms, such as sadness, anxiety, or irritability, if gaming is not possible
  • Build-up of tolerance and the need to spend more time gaming to satisfy the urge
  • Inability to reduce playing and/or unsuccessful attempts to quit gaming
  • Giving up other activities due to gaming or loss of interest in previously enjoyed activities
  • Continued gaming despite problems
  • Deceiving family members or others about the amount of time spent on gaming
  • The use of gaming to relieve negative moods, such as guilt or hopelessness
  • Having jeopardized or lost a job or relationship due to gaming

Risk factors and treatment

The risk factors related to IGD and criteria for diagnosing and treating it are still being researched and developed. Therapeutic  interventions, such as counseling and intensive outpatient treatment, have also emerged as more is understood about this uniquely 21st century addiction.

How to get help

As with all addictions, personal awareness of the problem and the willingness to get help are the important first steps to dealing with it. The Council’s Center for Recovering Families offers clinical assessments for those struggling with video gaming and/or internet addiction to determine the scope of the problem and the best course of  treatment. We offer therapeutic counseling, psycho-educational services, and recovery support for both adults and adolescents dealing with a variety of addictions associated with the internet and video gaming.

If you or someone you know is struggling with addiction to internet gaming or any other addiction or co-occurring mental health disorder, call The Council on Recovery at 713-942-4100 or contact us here. Start at The Council. We can help.


Technology Misuse, Abuse, & Addiction Among Teenagers

technology misuse

[The following was written by Patrick Hagler, a counselor for the Choices program at The Council on Recovery.]

It is hard to escape screens. Most likely, you are looking at one right now! Although the long-term effects of screen time are still being studied, the effects of excessive internet and smartphone use are well-documented. “Pathological” internet use has been linked to depression in teens, and it may even shrink gray matter (see article links below).

Pathological Internet Use May Cause Teen Depression

Gray Matters: Too Much Screen Time Damages the Brain Continue reading “Technology Misuse, Abuse, & Addiction Among Teenagers”