Teen Gaming Addiction Treatment

Teen gaming addiction is one of the most prominent tech-related addictions affecting teens in our digitally-driven world. This addiction often causes an obsessive desire to play video games, with feelings being overwhelming to the point that gaming interferes with life and daily tasks. Teens who are suffering from a gaming addiction may become irritable. anxious, or miserable if they aren’t able to access or play games in times of stress, engaging in game-seeking behavior to reduce perceived withdrawal symptoms. It is extremely common for teen gaming syndrome to manifest in the presence of other comorbid mental health disorders, including Anxiety and Depression.

Although gambling and gaming addiction are unique, both conditions share many similarities. Both activities keep audiences playing for longer periods of time by frequently using intentionally addictive “gameplay hooks.”

What Does Teen Gaming Addiction Look Like?

  • Gaming is an increasingly popular and successful multibillion-dollar global industry with a significantly large teen fan base.
  • Nearly 28 percent of all gamers are under the age of 18, meaning that half of the industry’s audience falls into the same demographic.
  • Teens generally have more time to game than adults, meaning they are more likely to spend excessive time playing or develop addictive behaviors.

Signs of Teen Gaming Addiction

Gaming is more important than school or responsibilities at home.

Avoiding social responsibilities and socialization to play games.

Avoiding self-care activities, including eating and drinking.

Swapping “IRL” relationships with virtual relationships.

Using playing games as a frequent coping mechanism.

Causes of Teen Gaming Addiction

Video game addiction often develops as a result of issues with adaptation, either to environments or new social influences. These struggles are especially prevalent after a move and when youths are diagnosed with another condition, like Depression or Social Anxiety. Gaming addiction can also develop if teens rely on video games as their sole method of social interaction, especially if they lack an outside social network altogether.

If teens turn to gaming as a coping mechanism whenever they encounter stress, it raises the risk for addiction significantly. They may begin to see gaming as a reward that counteracts negative experiences, letting go of more positive coping mechanisms.

Gaming addiction isn’t the same thing as playing video games too often. Overindulging becomes dependency when the teen gamer can’t stop, even if other responsibilities need their attention.

Genetic history plays a role in gaming dependency. If teens have a parent, a grandparent, or a blood relative with addictive behaviors, they may be more biologically susceptible to turn to gaming when experiencing emotional or physical pain. When teens engage in activities with a high inherent risk for dependency, such as gaming, this risk naturally becomes even higher.

Research also shows that playing video games within certain genres, such as MMORPGs, also contributes. Massively multi-player online role-playing games, more commonly known as MMORPGs, increase risks for dependency because they also involve socialization from a safe distance (behind a screen). They mirror real-life socializing, as they occur in real time, inspire hyper-competitive gameplay, and include interactive interfaces. Features like these allow teens to more easily replace real relationships with virtual relationships in the game.

Games like MMORPGs often become an alternate “home” or community for teens with an addiction to gaming, They often struggle with feelings of extreme Social Anxiety, including loneliness and feeling intensely socially awkward. The virtual environment becomes a safety zone for them to affect new personality traits and behaviors, trying on different “personas,” without fear of judgment.

With moderation, these behaviors aren't typically harmful, and may even be helpful for inspiring creativity and teaching skills like conflict resolution. For those addicted to gaming, however, it provides positive reinforcement of unhealthy behavior. Teens dive into a virtual world and virtual relationships to avoid their real relationships, which means they end up lacking the necessary fundamentals of personal human behavior and group social interaction as they age.

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Teen Gaming Addiction Treatment | Paradigm San Francisco

How Can I Help My Teen With Gaming Addiction?

Parents, friends, and family members have an important role to play in helping teens find help and heal from gaming addiction. It’s important to remember that the crux of the problem isn’t video games; it is what the video games represent that matters most. For teens who are addicted to video games, play isn’t just about entertainment. It is a way to cope with and escape from everyday problems.

Gaming addiction is also very different from substance addiction. Physically-addictive chemicals create addiction from the moment of ingestion, even in teens who are mentally stable and well-adjusted. In contrast, video games aren’t physically addictive; they just allow teens to self-soothe more easily. When entertainment turns into a coping skill, and begins to interfere with daily life, the risks outweigh the benefits. It isn’t enough to just stop gaming; loved ones must help teens get the help they need to address the emotional issues that led to the addiction in the first place.


of households play video games in the U.S.


Of video game playing U.S. youths are addicted


hours of video games are played weekly, on average

What Types of Teen Gaming Addiction Treatment Are Available?

Treating teen gaming addiction starts with getting professional help. Therapists teach teens how to heal, recover, and grow by:

  • Understanding consequences of addiction and recognizing it in themselves.
  • Manage gaming by decreasing time spent playing until it becomes an ordinary hobby again.
  • Recognizing what stresses make the person chose to seek shelter in the virtual world.
  • Find and put into action different ways to manage the stressors that isn’t playing video games.
  • Using healthier methods to handle stressors.
  • Practicing healthier socialization methods and communications.
  • Treating underlying comorbid mental health issues, such as Depression and Social Anxiety.
  • Being responsible for the behaviors associated with the addiction.

Teen gaming addiction treatment isn’t a magical fix. Teens may struggle to stick with the treatment plan or even relapse into destructive behaviors multiple times before they “get it right.” This isn't a sign of failure. No matter how intelligent your teen is, it will take time, patience, and long-term therapy to get to a place of healing. It takes even longer to get teens to learn how to make healthier behavioral choices. Fundamentally altering the way a person processes stress and negativity – which is what addiction does – won’t happen overnight. Even if they do heal and begin to make reparations, they may need to stay away from video games for the rest of their lives to avoid relapsing.

Teen Gaming Addiction Treatment at Paradigm San Francisco

Separating the teen from gaming is the first step to helping them overcoming their gaming addiction. After the separation occurs, teens need to start the difficult process of examining and changing what led to the addiction in the first place. Here at Paradigm San Francisco, we help teens who lack appropriate coping skills develop healthier stress and responsibility management skills, including improving emotional regulation and stress tolerance. Together, we work through anxieties, including life or situational contributors, that make them turn to gaming to self-soothe in the first place. Teens often use gaming to escape from the world, temporarily forgetting about stress and problems, but when they use video games in this manner too often, it can turn a fun and relaxing hobby into an unmanageable and devastating addiction. Constant escapism also prevents teens from learning how to cope with the natural ups and downs of life, leaving them to struggle long into adulthood.

Teens may recognize that they have a problem, or that they are gaming too often and too much, but that doesn’t mean they have the skills to help themselves. Healing gaming addiction requires professional skills and guidance; that’s where Paradigm San Francisco comes in. We use talk and group therapy, as well as varied and diverse techniques to manage stress, to help teens discover how to face their problems instead of running away from them.

To assist teens in potential reentry into the gaming world without fear of developing another addiction, we also teach time management skills as a vital part of treatment. Paradigm San Francisco can also help parents learn how to structure the home environment to encourage responsible behaviors in their teens, such as finishing chores or homework before gaming.

Paradigm dug really deep at getting to the root of my son’s addiction issues. They also involved us in the process and worked through a lot of family issues.

– Dave Z.

Frequently Asked Questions About Teen Gaming Addiction

Are other kinds of video games addictive, besides multiplayer?

Yes. Any game has the potential to be addictive, even if your teen is gaming alone with no virtual community to replace socialization. People become addicted to video games to fill a perceived emptiness in their lives, not for the sake of the game itself. Teens will seek refuge in video games to avoid that emptiness or avoid others types of stress or pain. Games are inherently designed to be fun and engaging. When you’re bored or unengaged with whatever else is going on around you, it’s perfectly normal for your mind to drift to gaming, especially if it’s an activity you enjoy. Gaming becomes an issue when other responsibilities and obligations fall by the wayside and you spend all your time invested in playing instead. The game itself isn’t what makes gaming healthy or unhealthy; it's how you use gaming and how it fits into your daily life.

Why is video game addiction bad?

Frequently playing video games itself isn’t the issue. The real issues with gaming begin when other aspects of your life get tossed aside to game. Video game addiction is a serious problem because it can impact your performance at school, friendships, family bonds, and general ability to learn and grow. Gaming is often social, and there's nothing wrong with developing healthy online friendships with people who share your interests. But when you begin to lose touch with the real world or avoid your real relationships, including with your friends and family, it isn't healthy. The key is to balance video games with reality to maintain a healthy life and mind.

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