All Thumbs: Video Game Addiction

If you’re a parent, chances are good that your child plays at least the occasional video game. If so, you may find yourself worrying that they spend too much time playing games, or that they could even have a video game addiction. Here’s what you need to know.

What is video game addiction?

As of the date of this article, video game addiction is not an official disorder according to the American Psychiatric Association (APA), although “internet gaming disorder” is included in their Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) in a special section that lists disorders that need a bit more research before being officially classified.

The basic criteria (symptoms) are much like other, official addiction disorders:

  • Preoccupation with gaming (they think about gaming almost all the time)
  • Playing compulsively (like they can’t control it)
  • Loss of interest in other activities
  • “Real life” is significantly impacted (such as hygiene, work or school performance)
  • They experience withdrawal symptoms when separated from gaming.
  • Depression, feelings of loneliness and emptiness
  • Restlessness, anxiety or irritability
  • Sleeping problems (too much or too little)
  • Lack of motivation or interest in anything
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Headaches and nausea
  • Obsessive thoughts, fantasies or dreams about gaming
  • Crying

Could my child be addicted?

It’s possible, as research indicates as many as three million young people (10 percent of the youth population) may be addicted to video games. But, it’s not the amount of time that’s the problem—it’s that these kids continue to play the games even though they understand the negative effects that gaming has on their lives.


One child might play games eight hours every day, and even though it’s probably not ideal, it’s not an addiction because he’s content to do other things, and the gaming has no negative impact on his life. Another child may only play 30 minutes daily, but if he spends a lot of his other time thinking about the game and wishing he was playing, to the point that it affects other aspects of his life—he’s likely addicted.

What to watch for

Here are some warning signs that your child might be addicted to gaming:

  • Talking obsessively about the game, online friends who play the game, etc.
  • Acting listless or uninterested in other activities when gaming isn’t allowed/available
  • Waking up earlier (maybe without your knowledge) to play games
  • Forgetting to eat, drink or use the restroom while gaming
  • Lying about time spent on video games

If you’re concerned that your child might be addicted to gaming, talk with your pediatrician about how to help.