Do you know someone that loves video games? Since they first appeared in the 1970’s they have become a favorite pastime for millions of people worldwide. In the United States alone, it is estimated that 97% of adolescents play at least one form of video game. With so many people playing video games regularly, where does a hobby cross the line to become an addiction.
This isn’t a new question. In 1999, Iowa State University psychologist Douglas Gentile began a study to prove that video game addiction wasn’t real. Instead, the results of the study determined that it was a very real addiction. The study showed that over 8% of children who played video games at the time showed signs of addiction.
In 2018, the World Health Organization added gaming disorder to its International Classification of Diseases. The organization defined gaming disorder as “a pattern of gaming behavior characterized by impaired control over gaming, increasing priority given to gaming over other activities to the extent that gaming takes precedence over other interests and daily activities, and continuation or escalation of gaming despite the occurrence of negative consequences.”
Since gaming addiction is a newer concept, researchers are still learning about what makes video games addictive. Video games are not the same as drugs and alcohol, and although they aren’t a physical substance, they can certainly have similar effects on the brain. Some researchers claim that video games will create a spike in dopamine (the feel-good hormone) that would make the gamer feel energized and happier. This rush of dopamine in the brain could lead to the development of addictive behaviors since dopamine levels play a big part in other addictions as well. A sudden and significant drop in dopamine levels when the game is turned off can lead to an addictive craving to create the dopamine rush again, which can only come from playing the game more. The circle repeats again and again, and for those with addictive tendencies, the consequences can be severe.
When video games do become addictive, the effects on the gamers life can be extremely harmful. The gamer becomes heavily focused on playing video games and is likely to avoid other priorities, like work, school, or relationships. According to American Addiction Centers, other side effects can include a sedentary lifestyle from sitting for long periods of time, problems with concentration, and lack of social engagement. Research has also shown that children that show signs of video game addiction are more likely to have lower academic grades than their peers (Chiu, 2004).
While there is still a lot to learn about video game addiction, research shows that nearly 1 in 10 children show signs of addiction. By using the GARS® test, you can understand if your loved one is at risk for developing gaming disorder.