By Dr. Brent Conrad
Clinical Psychologist for TechAddiction
Video game addiction can be defined as excessive video gaming habits that the individual finds difficult to control and which significantly interferes with academic, social, occupational, relational, and / or mental health functioning.
In recent years, video game addiction risk factors have received increased attention from the media, psychologist, physicians, researchers, parents, and the general public.
When the media covers video game addiction it very often involves a sensational or dramatic story of excessive gaming such as the death of a gamer in China who died after playing for three days nonstop, teenagers running away from home when gaming systems are banned, or children murdering parents when video games are taken away.
Fortunately, these extreme examples of computer game addiction are relatively rare and the vast majority of people who are addicted to video games do not physically harm themselves or others.
Still, excessive unhealthy gaming does appear to be a growing problem and researchers have started to identify a number of video game addiction risk factors. This should be helpful for therapists attempting to treat video game addiction and for parents hoping to address the problem when they start noticing the signs of excessive gaming.
So, what has the published gaming addiction research concluded about the risk factors for video game addiction and computer game addiction?
Computer Game & Video Game Addiction Risk Factors
1. Personality characteristics such as aggressiveness, a strong need for new or unique experiences, general anxiety level (trait anxiety), and neuroticism appear to be risk factors for video game addiction.
Mehroof, et al. (2010).
2. For male gamers, being older, having low self-esteem, and being unhappy with one's life in general are video game addiction risk factors.
Ko et al. (2005).
3. People who use computer games to manage their moods may be at an increased risk for video game addiction.
Chappell et al. (2006).
4. Being male is one of the risk factors for video game addiction and computer addiction.
5. Video game addicts have higher rates of depression and anxiety and lower grades in school. Note that it is possible to interpret this to mean that depression and anxiety are video game addiction risk factors…or that video game addiction is a risk factor for depression and anxiety.
Peukert et al. (2010).
6. Having a positive view of one's intelligence but a negative view of one's competence in interpersonal situations are both potential video game addiction risk factors.
Zheng et al. (2006).
7. Authoritarian parenting styles may be one of the risk factors for video game addiction.
Wang et al. (2006).
8. Playing online games, particularly multiplayer online role playing games is one of the risk factors for video game addiction.
Van Tooik et al. (2010).
9. There is evidence that the same brain regions that are believed to contribute to substance dependence (e.g., the right orbitofrontal cortex and the right caudate nucleus) are also overly activated in gamers in response to video game related images. Thus, the responsiveness of certain neurobiological mechanisms may be another one of the risk factors for video game addiction.
Ko et al., (2009).
10. Risk factors for video game addiction include impulsivity, weaker social skills, less empathy, and limited ability to regulate emotions.
Gentile et al. (2011).
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