A study published in the Journal of American Medical Association Psychiatry describes recent research in which short-term cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) helped 143 participants address issues related to computer game and internet addiction. The goal of the study was to determine if CBT could be an effective treatment option for people who struggle with internet addiction and computer addiction.

The study followed 143 male participants who reported symptoms of internet and computer addiction. Over the course of 15 weeks, the men participated in weekly group and bi-weekly individual CBT-based therapy sessions. The researchers found that 69.4% of the men showed a reduction in symptoms, including amount of time spent online, psychosocial skills and depression.

Video Game Addiction: A Growing Problem

As of 2012, internet addiction disorder affected up to 8.2% of the U.S. population. The National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America explains that video gaming is a legitimate category of behavioral addiction. Experts explain that the release of dopamine and other neurological rewards can make the nature of video games highly addictive. Conditioning and the development of habits play a role in the ongoing nature of this condition. Video game developers appear to capitalize on this proclivity by creating games that contribute to these compulsions.

Some symptoms of video game addiction include:

  • Increased and increasing hours spent playing video games
  • Playing for longer than you intend
  • Inability to concentrate on other tasks
  • Obsession with the story, characters or experience of a video game
  • Lying about video game use
  • Playing games as a way to cope with personal issues

Regular internet use or video game play may develop into an addiction that requires treatment. Evaluation tools used by experts to determine if an individual struggles with compulsive internet use include Young’s Internet Addiction Test and the Compulsive Internet Use Scale. It is especially important to monitor young people’s exposure, as their developing minds may be negatively impacted by excessive exposure to video games or continuous internet use.

Internet and Video Game Addiction Treatment

Psychotherapy is used as part of a comprehensive treatment plan for many conditions, including substance abuse, alcohol addiction, depression, phobias and compulsions. These study results suggest that therapy, especially CBT, may be an effective course of treatment for people experiencing an internet or video game addiction

The new study also highlights the importance of seeking treatment for internet or video game addictions. Dismissing people with these conditions as simply being gamers, or even antisocial, diminishes the authentic nature of their mental health issue and may prevent them from getting treatment that could help them live healthier, happier lives.