Although computer game addiction does not appear in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fourth Edition (DSM-IV) excessive and unhealthy video game habits is something that has received increased attention in the past several years.
There is a movement underway to have online gaming addiction / video game addiction listed in future editions of the DSM, but for now it is not an official diagnosis. Still, it is difficult to deny that some people (whether they are children, teens, or adults) play video games far too much and that it can negatively impact their functioning and success away from the glare of the monitor.
Of course, not everyone becomes addicted to computer games. Online games are enjoyed by millions of people around the world as a way to relax, interact with friends, and for simple entertainment purposes.
However, it is becoming clear that there are those who lose control of their gaming habits. For these individuals, video games (especially online multiplayer games) take center stage in their lives. Work performance may suffer due to extended late night gaming sessions. School grades may drop as a consequence of giving more attention to computer games than studying. Relationships may deteriorate as one partner feels neglected and less important that his or her partner’s latest game obsession.
For individuals whose online gaming habits have crossed over from a hobby into an addiction, there are multiple life areas that can be negatively affected. Of course, not everyone who plays video games excessively will experience identical negative impacts. Nevertheless, the following list outlines the six main areas that are often affected by computer game addiction.
1. Psychological and Emotional
People addicted to computer games may have a higher risk of experiencing self-esteem problems, depressed mood, social anxiety, and mood instability. When negative consequences of the addiction can no longer be denied, they may also feel guilty and ashamed for not being able to control their habits. Of note, game addiction can not only *be* caused by other issues (for example, depression), but may also *cause* other difficulties (again, depression is just one example).
Those who spend many hours playing computer games each day (sometimes totaling more than 40 or 50 hours per week) may neglect personal hygiene and health. They may give up healthy physical activities they once enjoyed, develop erratic sleeping habits, and choose meals based on convenience (ideally those that can be eaten while playing) rather than nutritional value.
Family relationships can be negatively impacted by computer game addiction. Family members (for example, parents, partners, or spouses) may tolerate excessive gaming habits for a while, but eventually they will demand that the person decreases how much he or she plays. A person who is addicted to computer games may deny that it is a problem, accuse the concerned family member of intruding on his or her life, and see the person as overreacting. Parents with children who are addicted to computer games may experience frequent arguments about how to address the problem.
Gaming can be a very expensive hobby – even for non-addicted players. Thousands of dollars can very easily be spent on new games, expansion packs, micro-transactions, online subscriptions, new consoles, and of course upgraded computer equipment. On rare occasions, someone addicted to computer games may lose his or her job due to poor performance at work (for example, showing up late, missing work, playing or reading about the game at work, etc.).
Computer game addiction and academic success are not compatible. Children and adolescents who are addicted to video games will spend more time with online games than studying or completing homework. They may quickly finish homework with minimal effort so that gaming can begin.
The more time a person spends playing computer games, the less time there is for the important people in his or her life. Face-to-face human contact is increasingly sacrificed in favor of the game. As a consequence, the person may experience social isolation, lost friendships, and loneliness.