Video game use in the United States is widespread, particularly among children, adolescents and teenagers. However, excessive video game use can become pathological, leading to a video game addiction or gaming disorder.

The World Health Organization (WHO) defines video game addiction as compulsive gaming whereby an individual continues to play video games despite negative effects on mental, physical or emotional health. While video game addiction is considered a relatively new diagnosis, several treatment strategies have been adopted to address growing concerns.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy

The most common treatment for video game addiction is known as cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). CBT involves treating many layers of an individual’s video game addiction. For example, CBT focuses on different treatment sessions that include:

  • Setting goals
  • Improving interactions with family members or caretakers
  • Developing coping responses and skills
  • Improving problem-solving skills
  • Enhancing self-esteem

Group Therapy

Another treatment strategy that is often employed in video game addiction treatment is group therapy. Group therapy includes settings where individuals with gaming disorders can interact with other people who also live with gaming addiction. In many cases, group therapy for gaming disorder takes place in gaming support groups.

Gaming Support Groups

Alternatively, another beneficial treatment strategy may include video game addiction support groups. In this scenario, individuals attend group therapy with others who have also been diagnosed with gaming disorders. Several groups have been created where individuals can physically attend meetings or visit online. Some resources for support groups include:

  • On-Line Gamers Anonymous
  • Computer-Gaming Addicts Anonymous
  • Psychology Today: Support Groups
  • Video Game Addiction Support Group

Gaming support groups offer the advantage of peer-to-peer interactions that can provide support, encouragement and perspective on the road to recovery.

Video Game Detox

As part of therapy, individuals with gaming disorders are encouraged to completely abstain from video game use. Different facilities offer various treatment options for video game detoxification.

Depending on the individual, inpatient rehab facilities would be beneficial for those needing a completely separate environment. In such programs, there is absolutely no access to video games.

It is likely that individuals will experience symptoms of video game withdrawal during this time which may include: irritability, sadness, boredom, anxiety and stress.

Medication

Another treatment option for video game addiction is prescribed medication. Licensed medical professionals may recommend the use of bupropion for gaming disorders. Historically, bupropion has been used to treat substance use disorders since it weakly inhibits the reuptake of dopamine and norepinephrine. In other words, bupropion results in more serotonin, dopamine and norepinephrine to transmit messages to other nerves.

In a study conducted in 2010, bupropion was used to treat individuals diagnosed with a gaming disorder relative to healthy gamers. This study found that after six weeks of treatment, individuals with a gaming disorder had decreased cravings, spent less time playing video games and had less brain activity in areas that are typically activated during video game use. These results suggest that bupropion may be an effective preventive measure for individuals predisposed to video game addictions.

Treating Video Game Addiction and Co-Occurring Disorders

In many cases, a video game addiction co-occurs or happens simultaneously with another mental health condition or substance use disorder. Treatments will vary depending on the disorder that co-occurs with a video game addiction:

  • Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD): A video game addiction and ADHD can be treated with CBT, bupropion and medications that address ADHD symptoms
  • Depression: Depression and a video game addiction can be treated with CBT, bupropion and medications that help stabilize an individual’s brain chemistry
  • Substance Abuse: The medications or therapies employed will depend on the substance that is being abused; however, the overall goal of treatment will be similar for substance use and video game addiction

If you or a loved one are struggling with an untreated video game addiction, help is available. The Recovery Village operates treatment centers across the United States that provide integrated approaches for mental health conditions and substance use disorders. Contact a representative at The Recovery Village today.