Understanding Gaming Addiction: Causes, Symptoms, and Recovery

gaming addiction

Gaming addiction is a growing concern in our constantly evolving digital world. With video games being an integral part of our culture and social norms, excessive gaming has emerged as a harmful behavior affecting countless individuals. 

Gaming addiction, also known as video game addiction or internet gaming disorder, is defined by the World Health Organization (WHO) as a “pattern of persistent or recurrent gaming behavior,” which takes precedence over other daily life interests and activities. While gaming in moderation can be a fun and engaging pastime, addiction occurs when the activity begins to interfere with a person’s everyday obligations and overall well-being.

Recognizing these symptoms early is critical to addressing the problem and seeking professional help.Psychotherapy offers a non-judgmental space to process and overcome gaming addiction, allowing individuals to understand the root causes of their behavior and develop healthier coping mechanisms. By seeking professional support, a person can learn to manage their gaming behavior, set responsible limits, and regain control over their life.

In this educational blog series, we will delve deeper into various aspects of gaming addiction, offering valuable insights and guidance to better comprehend the issue and facilitate the journey towards recovery.

The Prevalence and Impact of Gaming Addiction

According to a survey conducted by the Entertainment Software Association of Canada, approximately 65% of Canadian adults and 78% of Canadian teens play video games. The increasing ubiquity of gaming devices and the internet has led to more opportunities for individuals to develop and sustain an addiction.

Gaming addiction not only affects the person directly involved but also their immediate environment, including friends, family, and work or school performance. Social isolation, academic and career setbacks, strained relationships, and a decline in general mental and physical health are all potential consequences of unaddressed gaming addiction. As the broader implications of this issue become more apparent, there is a heightened need for greater awareness, understanding, and therapeutic support for those struggling with gaming addiction.

Identifying the Causes of Gaming Addiction

Gaming addiction is the result of a complex interplay between various factors, often stemming from a combination of individual, psychological, and sociocultural influences. Some common causes of gaming addiction include:

1. Escapism: People may turn to gaming as a means of escaping from difficulties or distressing emotions that they may be facing in their day-to-day lives. Video games can provide an immersive experience that temporarily removes a person from their immediate reality, which may be characterized by stress, anxiety, loneliness, or boredom. However, this temporary escape can quickly spiral into addiction when gaming becomes the primary coping mechanism for managing emotional discomfort.

2. Social Connection: Online gaming platforms have evolved to incorporate multiplayer and communication features, which enable players to form social connections with others who share their interests. For some individuals, particularly those who struggle with social anxiety or have limited opportunities for traditional social interaction, gaming may be an important means of establishing a sense of belonging and camaraderie. This social aspect can, in turn, contribute to the addictive nature of gaming for certain individuals.

3. Game Design: Modern video games are purposefully designed to be engaging and rewarding, often employing various psychological techniques to encourage and sustain player participation. Techniques such as variable reinforcement schedules, in-game rewards, achievements, and level progression can trigger the release of dopamine, a neurotransmitter responsible for sensations of pleasure and accomplishment. As a result, players may find themselves repeatedly seeking out these dopamine “hits” and becoming more susceptible to addiction.

4. Genetic or Biological Factors: Research suggests that certain individuals may have a genetic predisposition to addictive behaviors, including gaming addiction, as a result of irregularities in the brain’s reward system. Additionally, mental health conditions such as depression, anxiety, or ADHD may make individuals more prone to developing gaming addiction, as they may be more likely to seek out the comforting and engaging aspects of gaming.

Recognizing the Signs and Symptoms of Gaming Addiction

When trying to determine whether an individual is struggling with gaming addiction, it is essential to consider both the physical and emotional signs and symptoms. Some common indicators of gaming addiction include:

1. Neglect of Responsibilities: As gaming takes up more and more of an individual’s time and mental space, they may begin to neglect essential personal, academic, or professional responsibilities, resulting in a decline in overall functioning and well-being.

2. Withdrawal Symptoms: Individuals may experience irritability, restlessness, or agitation when they are unable to play, which can exacerbate their need to engage in gaming as a source of relief and comfort.

3. Compromised Relationships: As gaming consumes an ever-increasing amount of time and energy, the person’s relationships with friends, family, or romantic partners can suffer, leading to tension and isolation.

4. Failed Attempts to Control Gaming: An individual battling gaming addiction may make multiple unsuccessful attempts to significantly reduce or cease their gaming behavior, often finding it difficult to resist the allure and comfort that gaming provides.

Psychotherapy as a Path to Recovery

Psychotherapy can equip individuals with the necessary tools to identify the root causes of their addictive behaviors, set measurable and attainable goals for reducing gaming time, and develop alternative coping strategies for managing distressing emotions.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) and Dialectical Behaviour Therapy (DBT) are two evidence-based therapeutic modalities that have proven to be particularly effective in addressing gaming addiction. CBT focuses on identifying and altering maladaptive thoughts and behaviors that contribute to the addiction, while DBT emphasizes the development of emotional regulation, mindfulness, and interpersonal skills.


Understanding gaming addiction is crucial for both individuals directly affected and their loved ones. By raising awareness of the causes, symptoms, and available therapeutic support, we as a society can work collectively to minimize the harmful impacts of gaming addiction and foster healthier and more balanced lifestyles.

At Chettiar Counselling, we are dedicated to providing comprehensive and compassionate counselling in Guelph for those dealing with gaming addiction, empowering them to regain control of their lives and achieve lasting positive change. Our skilled therapists are equipped to address gaming addiction through evidence-based practices, such as Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), which helps to identify and modify problematic thoughts and behaviors, and Dialectical Behaviour Therapy (DBT), which focuses on emotional regulation and interpersonal effectiveness. Let us help you break free from the grip of gaming addiction and find a healthier, more fulfilling way to live. Contact us today to schedule an appointment!