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Harmless fun or dangerous obsession? Signals that your teen has a gaming addiction

This is a collaborative post

For over 50 years, gaming has been a normal part of many people’s childhood. While we may have derived hours of fun from those heavy, box-like consoles, blowing into cartridges and enjoying a more simplistic gaming experience, today’s teens and young adults have the privilege of immersing themselves within hyper-realistic games, playing solo or sharing their progress with fellow gamers, anywhere in the world.

But when does this enjoyable pastime become a dangerous obsession? When we think about addiction, we tend to envisage drug abuse and alcoholism, the idea of being addicted to playing a game seems unusual. However, gaming addiction is a serious disorder that is becoming common amongst young adults and more of them than ever are seeking gaming addiction treatment.

Gaming addiction is the compulsion and desire to play video games to such an extent that other areas of your life begin to suffer. Some young adults turn to gaming to manage their emotions, to seek rewards and recognition with the subsequent release of endorphins when they play, and as a way to mask other mood disorders such as depression and anxiety. But do you know the signs? Below, we’ll examine the signals that your teen has a gaming addiction.

They’re going without sleep

Teens should be getting anywhere around 9 hours of sleep each night. And many teenagers sleep for even longer! However, if your teen is going for long periods without enough sleep, or they’re opting for gaming rather than rest, then this could be a sign of a gaming addiction. A lack of sleep can lead to all kinds of health and behavioural problems, and if they’re choosing to game despite these effects then you should speak with a professional.

They easily become aggressive

When your teen is asked to stop gaming, either to join you for dinner or to get on with another activity, do they become aggressive? If they’re asked to pause or turn off their game, even for a short while, do they seem to be raging with anger and frustration? If this sounds familiar, they could have a gaming addiction. 

They’re losing valuable relationships

man standing on rock under clear sky

Photo by Steve Halama on Unsplash

Have their friends stopped calling? Has their latest romantic relationship taken a backseat because of their gaming habits? If your teen is losing valuable relationships because they can’t stop gaming, then this is a warning sign.

Their spending habits are secretive

Is your teen spending too much of their own money on games, consoles or online gaming subscriptions? Have you found receipts detailing substantial payments, despite placing them on a purchase ban, or do you find them playing new games every week despite issues with money or asking them to stop? If your teen is secretly spending too much money on gaming then this may be a sign that they’re battling addiction. 

Their school performance is dropping

Long periods of gaming can mean a lack of sleep and failing to prioritise studying, homework and other curricular activities. If you’ve noticed a drop in their school performance or if their teacher has expressed concern, it might be time to discuss a possible gaming addiction.

Poor hygiene

We all know that teens and young adults are getting used to taking care of themselves and establishing routines for skin care and hygiene. But if your teen is displaying signs of poor hygiene on a regular basis, such as failing to shower for days on end, having unkempt, dirty hair, wearing the same clothes all the time, or having no interest in taking care of themselves because they’re gaming all the time, then it’s time to step in.

What causes a gaming addiction?

Gaming addiction can manifest itself for a number of reasons, and each case is different. However, there are often shared factors that are present in almost all cases of gaming addiction, including:

  • Fleeing from reality: When individuals experience a traumatic or life-changing event, such as bullying, abuse even issues at home, many teens turn to gaming as a way to flee from reality and escape the trauma that they’re struggling with. Gaming can make them feel safe and in control of their lives. 
  • They’re looking for a distraction from life: Gaming can distract individuals from the problems in their lives, whether they’re experiencing a breakup with a partner or struggling with their grades. And as it produces a narcotic effect, this simple distraction can quickly become addictive and is a much better alternative to facing up to their problems.
  • Using gaming to supplement poor social skills: If your teen feels like a social outcast, then they may turn to gaming to supplement their poor social life. Perhaps they feel as though they don’t fit in with their peer group and the only social contact they get pleasure from is with like-minded gamers, who also struggle with real-life social interactions. This can be a common cause of gaming addiction.

And finally, they want to stop but can’t

Sometimes, teens and young adults can recognise when their gaming habits have become a problem. But, if they’ve tried to step away from their gaming addiction and are finding it difficult to reduce their playtime or are struggling to cope with reality, then consider reaching out to a professional as soon as possible to get them the support they need.

Harmless fun or dangerous obsession? Signals that your teen has a gaming addiction



About Author

I am Sam and owner of StressedMum, I hope you enjoyed reading my latest post, I always love to read comments from my readers


  • Margaret Gallagher
    29th May 2021 at 8:22 am

    So easy to fall into the trap – thanks for the tips to spot

    • admin
      29th May 2021 at 9:18 am

      It is very easy and something you may not be aware of

  • Fiona+jk42
    1st June 2021 at 6:04 pm

    This is very useful, it can be so hard to spot this type of addiction.

    • admin
      1st June 2021 at 7:02 pm

      It is hard to spot unless you know the signs to look for

  • Carly Belsey
    3rd June 2021 at 5:15 am

    It is scary isn’t it, my son is nearly 14 and I get worried about him sometimes up there with his Xbox, I try and get him out as much as possible and limit how much time he goes on there and I just hope he’s not sneaky and goes on there at night but the only way I will know is if I take it out of his room!

    • admin
      3rd June 2021 at 8:21 am

      One of our boys was always on his xbox the other one always out wanting to do stuff. I think it is all about finding the right balance

    7th June 2021 at 9:27 am

    I remember my brother,becoming addicted to gaming,my mum took the console away in the end


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