Video games are an increasingly popular form of entertainment. The adrenaline rush of defeating a high-level boss, the satisfaction of winning as an underdog, and the pure delight of assimilating into online communities where you’re wholly accepted—it’s no wonder that video gaming is one of the most common hobbies in the world.
Because video games were designed to captivate and exhilarate, it’s perfectly normal to enjoy them. But when does this hobby begin shifting into a form of addiction?
What is Video Addiction?
The World Health Organization (WHO) has classified gaming disorder as an addictive behavior that involves reduced control over gaming, prioritizing gaming over other daily activities, and escalation of gaming habits despite the development of adverse outcomes and consequences .
With the addition of this condition into the WHO medical reference book, healthcare professionals have started delving deeper into the risk factors, prevention, and management of gaming disorders and addiction . The American Gaming Association and International Center for Responsible Gaming (ICRG) are other organizations that have also spearheaded movements and campaigns about responsible gaming and gambling.
As awareness of video game addiction increases, it’s normal to pay more attention to specific signs and symptoms that may point towards that.
Signs and Symptoms of Video Game Addiction
The topic of addiction is heavy. So if you feel unsettled talking about it, that’s perfectly normal. However, if you notice some of these signs and symptoms, it’s best to nudge yourself towards finding a safe space where you can open up about them and seek advice.
We’ll discuss some of the associated symptoms in this section.
Excessive and Unhealthy Gaming Habits
Excessive gameplay is one facet of video game addiction. According to the American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5), some proposed criteria pointing towards an unhealthy preoccupation with video gaming include:
- Unable to reduce gaming hours and unsuccessful attempts to quit
- The increasing need to spend more hours gaming to satisfy the urge
- Sadness, anxiety, or irritable mood when not able to game
- Lack of interest in previously-enjoyable activities as a result of gaming
- Not letting friends or family know the actual time spent gaming
- Gaming habits that disrupt your job, relationships, and work
- The use of gaming to numb negative moods and feelings 
Experiencing any one of these does not mean you have a video game addiction. The label is misused frequently, so seeking professional advice is the best way to navigate any confusion or doubts.
Loot Boxes and Online Betting
Loot boxes are a feature of numerous multiplayer games. As their popularity skyrockets, various concerns have been raised.
Opening loot boxes can be an exhilarating and possibly addictive experience for several reasons. Some give players a chance to win gameplay advantages or rare cosmetics, while others display near-misses (items ‘almost’ won) or are limited edition. At times, items obtained can be cashed out at astronomical figures, further enhancing the attraction and appeal of loot boxes .
However, buying loot boxes doesn’t mean you have any gambling tendencies or habits. After all, loot boxes are usually priced affordably, meaning you can purchase a decent number of them before breaking the bank. Instead, the danger lies with not knowing when to stop, raking up huge debts, or using someone else’s money without their knowledge to purchase loot boxes.
Online betting may also unknowingly lead to addiction, which shows up as various signs and symptoms. You may notice:-
- Restless or irritable when trying to cut down or stop betting
- Lying to conceal any betting activities
- Increasing need for betting to satisfy urges and frequent thoughts about betting
- Depending on other people for money to carry out betting activities 
It’s not easy to open up about these matters, but seeking professional advice may help you better manage your time and related spendings.
Where’s the Line?
There are some grey areas as to which behavioral patterns are considered addictive behaviors. The fact is, a six-year research study found that around 90% of gamers do not play in a manner that leads to harm or negative long-term outcomes .
If you don’t find yourself neglecting your important relationships, school, career, finances, or responsibilities, you’re unlikely affected by any form of video game addiction.
Knowing how to manage and control your gaming playtime and habits so it does not impact other aspects of your life is a good sign that you’re on the right track.
If you are concerned that video games are negatively affecting a significant part of your life, seeking professional help and advice is one of the best management options.
Your doctor or therapist may recommend cognitive behavioral training, a form of counseling that walks you through positive behavioral change. Your doctor or therapist may also look further into other conditions that may be causing this addiction, such as anxiety or depression .
Some practical tips that could also help include:-
- Gradually cutting back on playtime and replacing that with other activities such as exercise or social events.
- Practicing good gaming habits (sitting at least 2 feet from the screen and playing in a well-lit room).
- Setting time limits on gaming activities.
- Avoiding the use of devices nearing bedtime .
You may also wish to lend the support of trusted friends and family. Suppose you’re not ready to speak to them yet. In that case, you may instead opt to receive support anonymously from online support groups and communities or organizations such as the following:-
- American Addiction Centers, Hotline: 888-868-0942
- The Recovery Village, Hotline: 888-398-0168
- Last Door, Hotline: +1855-910-5942
- Computer Gaming Addicts Anonymous, Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
A person dealing with long-term negative consequences from unhealthy gaming patterns may be affected by some form of video game addiction.
Understandably, experiencing any form of addiction is tough, even more so when dealing with it alone. Keep in mind that unsuccessful attempts do not mark you as a failure. There’s always room to show yourself some grace and encouragement.
When you’re ready to open up, try to look for opportunities and safe spaces where you can seek help and advice. After all, you don’t have to walk it out alone.