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Video Game Addiction Effects

Video game addiction has serious physical and mental effects that should not be taken lightly. It is crucial to raise awareness about these effects and support loved ones in seeking behavioral addiction treatment.

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What Are the Effects of Video Game Addiction?

Video game addiction may seem harmless compared to abusing substances, but the effects of gaming addiction shouldn’t be downplayed.

The physical and mental effects of video game addiction can easily lead to worse problems if left unchecked. By increasing awareness of these effects, loved ones of video game addicts can be better informed on the risks and offer positive support to seek behavioral addiction treatment.

Physical Effects of Video Game Addiction

Video games are a staple in the American household these days—especially with the prevalence of apps and social media—but some adolescents and adults with risk factors for addiction struggle to play games casually.

However, video game addiction has ultimately become a significant public health problem.

Short-Term Physical Effects

A big concern for the physical health of excessive video game use is the potential for overuse injuries and eye strain.

Whether the gamer plays with a controller or with a keyboard and mouse, there is considerable potential for stress injuries that can lead to chronic, long-term physical ailments.

Research published in Frontiers in Physiology has shown that blue light can disrupt sleeping patterns. Therefore, another physical risk associated with excessive gaming and staring at screens that emit blue light is the disruption of sleep patterns.

Common short-term physical effects of video game addiction include:

  • Eye strain
  • Headaches
  • Poor concentration
  • Poor hygiene
  • Repetitive stress injuries
  • Overuse injuries
  • Trouble sleeping or keeping a normal sleep schedule
  • Weight gain
  • Muscle atrophy
  • Poor diet

Long-Term Physical Effects

As gaming addicts spend larger amounts of time playing video games, the short-term physical effects can manifest into long-term, chronic issues. The overuse injuries can eventually lead to permanent damage that causes numbness, pain, and even mobility issues.

Common long-term physical effects of video game addiction include:

  • Chronic headaches
  • Migraines
  • Chronic pain and inflammation in fingers, hands, or limbs
  • Chronic numbness and weakness in fingers, hands, or limbs
  • Carpel tunnel syndrome
  • Gamer’s thumb (also called “PlayStation thumb” or “Nintendinitis”), which occurs when the tendons that move the thumb become inflamed
  • Stenosing tenosynovitis (trigger finger), which occurs when the tendon in the affected finger becomes inflamed
  • Tennis elbow
  • Obesity
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Mental/Psychological Effects of Video Game Addiction

The mental effects of video game addiction can range from increased anxiety and depression to serious dysfunction and even thoughts of suicide. Video game addiction often causes the addict to isolate themselves, which may worsen existing mental health problems.

Short-Term Mental Effects

Unhealthy gaming behavior can have a significant effect on the emotional and mental health of video game addicts, even in the early stages of their addiction. These mental effects can easily worsen existing mental health conditions or lead to the development of new mental illnesses.

Common short-term mental effects of video game addiction include:

  • Increased social anxiety
  • Panic attacks
  • Depression
  • Isolation
  • Conflict with loved ones
  • Withdrawal from social groups
  • Long-Term Mental Effects

Isolation is a big concern for video game addicts, even if their game of choice is multiplayer and requires contact with other gamers. The longer gaming addicts are isolated and abusing console or computer games, the more they may struggle with daily activities and maintaining their mental well-being.

Common long-term mental effects of video game addiction include:

  • Experiencing withdrawal symptoms when not gaming
  • Intense loneliness
  • Anger and bitterness towards others due to toxic gaming communities
  • Feelings of hopelessness
  • Insomnia or dysfunctional sleeping schedules
  • Worsening symptoms of common co-occurring disorders like depression, anxiety, and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)
  • Thoughts of self-harm or suicide

Other Harmful Effects of Video Game Addiction

Video game addiction can affect every facet of the addict’s life beyond the mental and physical effects. Financial issues and strife in relationships are very common as the symptoms of video game addiction worsen.

In addition, more specific or niche addictions may occur—such as internet gaming disorder (IGD). IGD is specifically based on the addiction to online video games, which typically involve multiplayer worlds and lengthy campaigns.

Other negative effects of video game addiction include:

  • Financial issues due to buying games or paying for microtransactions in games
  • Issues with friends, coworkers, and family members due to addictive behaviors
  • Higher risk of engaging in substance abuse
  • Losing friends in the real world
  • Declining social skills due to isolation
  • Higher risk of developing other behavioral addictions (e.g., gambling or internet addiction)
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Get Help for a Video Game Addiction

If you are worried about yourself or a loved one showing warning signs of video game addiction, now is the time to seek help and support.

Although the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) does not have specific criteria for diagnosing a video game addiction, treatment is very similar to other behavioral addiction treatments.

Common treatments for gaming addiction include cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) and medications like anti-depressants or anti-anxiety medications.

Get started by talking to your healthcare provider about what treatment plan may best suit your situation. You can also try SAMHSA’s online treatment locator or call 1-800-662-4357 (HELP) to learn what video game addiction treatment options are available where you live.

FAQs About the Effects of Video Game Addiction

How is video game addiction different from substance addiction?

One main difference between video game addiction and substance addiction is the presence of a drug.

Video game addiction is a behavioral addiction that causes intense cravings to engage in offline or online gaming, while drug addiction causes cravings to take the substance of choice.

However, the mechanism causing addiction between the two conditions can often be sourced back to the brain’s dependence on the feel-good chemical dopamine. Many substances trigger the release of dopamine, just like video game addiction does.

What are the long-term effects of video game addiction?

Common long-effects of video game addiction include:

  • Experiencing withdrawal symptoms when not gaming
  • Chronic headaches and migraines
  • Chronic pain, inflammation, numbness, and weakness in fingers, hands, or limbs
  • Chronic conditions like carpel tunnel syndrome, gamer’s thumb, stenosing tenosynovitis (trigger finger), and tennis elbow
  • Weight gain and obesity
  • Intense loneliness and feelings of hopelessness
  • Angry and bitter feelings due to toxic gaming communities
  • Insomnia or dysfunctional sleeping schedules
  • Worsening symptoms of common comorbid disorders like anxiety, depression, and ADHD
  • Thoughts of self-harm or suicide

How does video game addiction affect the brain?

Video game addiction can alter the addict’s brain chemistry, specifically with the brain’s reward center. Current research suggests that video game play triggers the release of the neurotransmitter dopamine, which causes feelings of pleasure and reward.

Each time the brain is flooded with dopamine, some people begin to develop a dependence on the presence of dopamine. When not gaming, the addict’s brain struggles to function without dopamine, which can cause withdrawal symptoms.

Common withdrawal symptoms of video game addiction include:

  • Restlessness
  • Irritability
  • Headaches
  • Cognitive impairment and focus issues
  • Sleep issues
  • Mood swings
  • Anxiety and depression
  • Thoughts of suicide or self-harm

What can I do if my partner’s video game addiction is affecting our relationship?

The first-line treatment for video game addiction is psychotherapy and medication if needed. Cognitive behavioral therapy, or CBT, is the most common type of therapy used. Encourage your partner to seek CBT and address their issues with video game abuse.

Couples therapy may also help if your partner’s video game issue has damaged your relationship. Working with a couple’s therapist will ensure you and your partner feel heard and respected while confronting sensitive topics safely.

Kent S. Hoffman, D.O. is a founder of Addiction HelpReviewed by:Kent S. Hoffman, D.O.

Chief Medical Officer & Co-Founder

  • Fact-Checked
  • Editor

Kent S. Hoffman, D.O. has been an expert in addiction medicine for more than 15 years. In addition to managing a successful family medical practice, Dr. Hoffman is board certified in addiction medicine by the American Osteopathic Academy of Addiction Medicine (AOAAM). Dr. Hoffman has successfully treated hundreds of patients battling addiction. Dr. Hoffman is the Co-Founder and Chief Medical Officer of AddictionHelp.com and ensures the website’s medical content and messaging quality.

Jessica Miller is the Content Manager of Addiction HelpWritten by:

Editorial Director

Jessica Miller is the Editorial Director of Addiction Help. Jessica graduated from the University of South Florida (USF) with an English degree and combines her writing expertise and passion for helping others to deliver reliable information to those impacted by addiction. Informed by her personal journey to recovery and support of loved ones in sobriety, Jessica's empathetic and authentic approach resonates deeply with the Addiction Help community.

  1. Grinspoon, P. (2020, December 22). The Health Effects of Too Much Gaming. Harvard Health. https://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/the-health-effects-of-too-much-gaming-2020122221645
  2. Internet Gaming in DSM-5. American Psychiatric Association. (2023, January). https://www.psychiatry.org/patients-families/internet-gaming
  3. Mohammad, S., Jan, R. A., & Alsaedi, S. L. (2023, March 31). Symptoms, Mechanisms, and Treatments of Video Game Addiction. Cureus. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC10065366/
  4. Silvani, M. I., Werder, R., & Perret, C. (2022, August 16). The Influence of Blue Light on Sleep, Performance and Wellbeing in Young Adults: A Systematic Review. Frontiers in Physiology. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC9424753/
  5. Tang, K. (2021, June 15). What Are the Negative Consequences of Video Game Addiction? The OpenThink Initiative. https://blogs.dal.ca/openthink/what-are-the-negative-consequences-of-video-game-addiction/
  6. Wittek, C. T., Finserås, T. R., Pallesen, S., Mentzoni, R. A., Hanss, D., Griffiths, M. D., & Molde, H. (2015, September 23). Prevalence and Predictors of Video Game Addiction: A Study Based on a National Representative Sample of Gamers. International Journal of Mental Health and Addiction. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5023737/
  7. World Health Organization. (2020, October 22). Addictive Behaviours: Gaming Disorder. World Health Organization. https://www.who.int/news-room/questions-and-answers/item/addictive-behaviours-gaming-disorder
  8. Zamani, E., Chashmi, M., & Hedayati, N. (2009). Effect of Addiction to Computer Games on Physical and Mental Health of Female and Male Students of Guidance School in City of Isfahan. Addiction & Health. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3905489/

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