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While video game addictions have not been officially recognized within the medical field, the psychological symptoms of video game addiction are nearly identical to those associated with substance-based addictions like drugs and alcohol. People addicted to video games engage in the same compulsive behaviors seen in drug addicts. From a psychological standpoint, the symptoms associated with video game addictions – loss of control, increasing dependency and the presence of other psychological disorders – mirror those associated with substance-based addictions.
Loss of Control
Some people play video games every now and then, while others may devote excessive amounts of time to the activity without necessarily jeopardizing other areas of their lives. Someone who jeopardizes other areas of his or her life to play video games has most likely developed an addiction to the activity. At this point, gamers lose control in terms of not being able to stop playing in spite of the mounting problems caused by continued play.
According to the U.S. National Library of Medicine, this type of behavior eventually starts to compromise a person’s school, work and relationship obligations. Some people may get to the point of neglecting carrying out fundamental tasks, such as bathing and grooming. Once a person reaches this point, symptoms of video game addiction have become a way of life. In effect, video games have become a primary means of coping with everyday stressors.
With addictions in general, the reward center of the brain plays an active role in driving a person’s compulsive behaviors. One of the most powerful symptoms of video game addiction has to do with the way game players interact with the activity. When playing video games, the “rush” and excitement a player experiences produces dopamine secretions in the brain. Dopamine, an essential neurotransmitter chemical, works directly with the brain’s reward system. These same neurotransmitter processes occur with cocaine addictions and most any other form of addictive behavior.
Over time, game players come to crave this “rush” to the point where they become physiologically dependent on the experience. This symptom of video game addiction grows worse with time as players continue to seek out more of the same. If, at some point, a person is unable to play video games for a while, this dependency will take the form of withdrawal effects, such as irritability, restlessness and even depression.
People prone to escape into the world of video gaming may sometimes have a pre-existing condition that makes them more susceptible to addiction. In effect, any pre-existing conditions act as symptoms of video game addiction when in fact they may be a driving force behind the addiction.
As a symptom of video game addiction, a condition like depression or anxiety would become increasingly worse the more a person engaged in video games. Add to this the tendency to isolate more and more as playing games takes up increasing amounts of time and a person’s depression symptoms become all the worse.
Much like a drug or alcohol addict relies on the drug “highs, this symptom of video game addiction drives a person to rely on the “highs” produced by gaming to alleviate feelings of depression.