Recovering from Online Video Gaming Addiction

A video game addiction is the compulsive playing of computer or video games, to the extent that it interferes with everyday life.

Some clinicians consider it a clinical impulse control disorder, in the same sense as compulsive gambling.

While most people associate addiction with substances such as drugs or alcohol, clinicians recognize addictive behaviors as well.

Warning signs for videogame addiction might include:

  • Excessive use, often associated with a loss of sense of time or a neglect of basic activities of daily living, like eating or sleeping;
  • Withdrawal, including feelings of anger, irritability, tension, and/or depression when the computer is inaccessible or when trying to cut down;
  • Tolerance, including the need for better computer equipment, more software, or more hours of use;
  • Negative repercussions, including arguments, lying, poor achievement, social isolation, and fatigue;
  • Thinking about gaming during other activities; and
  • Gaming to escape from real-life problems, anxiety, or depression.

Unlike substance abuse, the biological aspect of video game addiction is uncertain. Research suggests that video gaming elevates dopamine, but there’s more to addiction than brain chemistry. There’s a psychological component to the addiction, in that the person is trying to change the way they feel.

For some gamers, it’s the fantasy world that makes them feel better. These are games in which a player assumes the role of a fictional character and interacts with other players in a virtual world. An intelligent adolescent who is unpopular at school can “become dominant in the game.” The virtual life becomes more appealing than real life. Video game addicts tend to become isolated, dropping out of their social networks and giving up other activities.

Too much gaming may seem relatively harmless compared with the dangers of a drug overdose, but video game addiction can ruin lives. High school and post-secondary school students can lose school years as a result of on-line gaming. Adolescents and young adults who play four to five hours a day have no time for socializing, doing homework, or playing sports. In older people, compulsive gaming can jeopardize jobs or relationships.

Spending a lot of time gaming doesn’t necessarily qualify as an addiction. Most people can play games safely. Problems arise when the person can’t stop, when the gaming takes priority and causes harm in the rest of their lives.

How Karen Graham Can Help

Building on her early career as a pharmacist, along with post-graduate training and experience in coaching, addiction counseling and recovery, Karen Graham provides individual services to support clients in their recovery from on-line gaming addiction. She helps clients to clarify what’s really happening in their lives right now, and build motivation to make change.

She works with individuals who value an expert, objective, supportive relationship as they let go of self-defeating behaviors and build healthy, sustainable daily routines. Karen uses a harm reduction approach to video gaming addiction including evidence-informed tools to support the client to make change: motivational interviewing and contracting are two examples. Her video gaming addiction experience has been with male clients between the ages of 16 and 30, and they have successfully moderated their online gaming activities.

Karen’s addiction recovery coaching is provided by telephone for clients across North America. From time to time she also sees clients in person – please contact her for details. | 250-589-8199 |

Karen Graham has provided addiction recovery coaching services since 2012. Her early career as a pharmacist contributes to her understanding of the science of addiction and is augmented by training and experience in addiction counseling, motivational interviewing and coaching to help clients make sustainable, positive change.