Internet Gaming and Computer Related Addictions

This description refers to non-gambling computer games. Gambling games on the computer are still considered gambling, and excessive computerized gambling is a gambling disorder, long recognized by behavioral health professionals (at least since 1980) as a diagnosable mental health disorder.

What is an Internet Gaming Disorder or Other Computer-Related “Addiction”?

Internet Gaming Disorder or Other Computer-Related “Addictions” involve the persistent and recurring use of the Internet/computers to engage in games, social media, movie/video watching, often with other persons, leading to clinically significant impairment or distress as indicated by preoccupation with Internet gaming, posting, tweeting, etc.; withdrawal symptoms when computer access is taken away; tolerance – the need to spend more and more time on the computer; unsuccessful attempts to control computer use; loss of interest in other hobbies or activities; continued excessive use even in the face of and knowledge of the psychosocial problems it is causing; deceiving other about the amount of computer gaming; using the Internet to “escape” or relieve a negative mood; jeopardizing or losing a significant relationship, job, or educational opportunity because of participation in Internet games or social media or watching excessive numbers of films or videos. Another important result? --- lack of adequate sleep.

When they are surveyed, COD students inform Student Health Services that a significant cause of their inadequate sleep is computer activity, activities such as continuous viewing of Netflix and other movie and video sites, and to a lesser extent computer games and social networking. This continuous “addiction” to movie video feeds results in lack of sleep, with all the attendant effects of insomnia. (See the mental health topic “Insomnia” on this site for more information and details on the negative effects of insomnia.)

What things put a person at higher risk of experiencing an Internet Gaming Disorder or Other Computer-Related “Addiction”?

Environmental factors such as computer availability, tablets, smartphones increase the risk for this disorder. Adolescent males seem to be at greater risk of developing these disorders, and “it has been speculated [in the DSM-V] that Asian environmental and/or genetic background is another risk factor, but this remains unclear.” Other risk factors may include being stressed, anxious, or depressed; other addictions; lack of social support; unhappy childhood; and/or becoming less mobile or social active than previously, as well as adult attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).

Can an Internet Gaming Disorder or Other Computer-Related “Addiction” be treated?

Internet Gaming Disorder or Other Computer-Related “Addiction” can be treated. Cognitive behavioral therapy may be effective. But first we need to consider what is a healthy use of technology devices. That is the crucial question. Who is really in charge of your life? That is what one needs to ask oneself if one is to have any chance of breaking up delusions about use of technology. When one can live happily without using so much technology for a day or a week, then he or she can regain control and personal freedom and become the master of technology. Discover what there is to enjoy in life that is free of technology.

Support groups and 12-step programs have been shown to be effective, for example, with addiction to cybersex behaviors. You can help a friend by encouraging other interests and social activities, discussing underlying issues with him or her, and helping your friend get to appropriate help. In some cases, medications may be effective in treating symptoms related to internet gaming disorder and other computer-related addictions such as anxiety or depression.

How does Internet Gaming Disorder or Other Computer-Related “Addiction” progress?

As with other addiction behaviors, internet gaming and other computer-related addictions can improve. Recovery is an on-going process, as 12-step programs often point out.

Do people with Internet Gaming Disorders or Other Computer-Related “Addictions” get better?

The jury is still out on whether obsessive Internet use is an addiction or disorder, and, if so, whether it can be effectively treated so that there is a positive expectation that a person might improve.

As Rebecca J. Rosen wrote in The Atlantic magazine (not a scholarly, peer-reviewed publication) in 2011:

A review of eight studies (subscription required) finds that they are plagued by an inability to consistently define Internet addiction, poor methodology (only one randomized controlled trial), and absent data. So that brings us back to square one, about where we were in 1995, just with way more Internet users and way more life happening primarily online.

The central problem with treatment for Internet addiction is that there is no standard for what Internet addiction is. Patients at these centers could be suffering from a range of problems - anything from pathological gambling (which can certainly manifest itself online) to sleep disorders and depression. In this sense, for many people Internet addiction may be more of a symptom than a disorder in and of itself. If so, they may benefit more from treatment targeted not at their Internet use, but at whatever else is ailing them.” (Rosen, Rebecca J. (2011.)

Making progress with internet and other computer addictions involves physical signs of recovery success and an overall increase in mental stability. Confidence, better decision-making skills and lifestyle changes help maintain moderation.

Sources and Links

  • Internet Addiction Test (IAT) – A validated test for online users to determine if they may be addicted to the Internet. Learn more here about how to check yourself, from getting a mental health screening to visiting a counseling center. You can use the anonymous Self Evaluator to learn if a treatable mental health problem, including internet addiction, could be affecting you or a friend. Be proactive about your mental health: it’s the first step to feeling better.

  • One might find help dealing with cybersex excesses at Sex Addicts Anonymous and their in-person and electronic meetings.

  • Video game addictions

  • Excellent internet addiction recovery resources appear on the The Center for Internetand Technology Addiction website