treating video game addiction in teens

Video Game Addiction On The Rise

Elk River specializes in the treatment of teenage video game addiction and abuse

Video Game Addiction Treatment for Teens

As video games evolved into complex and realistic escapes to players of all ages, the Elk River Treatment Program (ERTP) began to see an increase teens that were admitted with an intense obsession with gaming. Soon ERTP began to specialize in video game addiction treatment that includes, but is not limited to, online gaming, role-playing games or any interactive gaming environment. This addiction has increased dramatically in the United States.

When to Consider Video Game Addiction Treatment

Gaming stimulates the brain’s “reward centers” which stimulates the same high a drug addict or alcoholic feels. While most people associate addiction with substances, such as drugs or alcohol, doctors recognize online gaming addictive behaviors as well. If your teen would prefer to play video games than hang out with friends, play sports or even bathe – then your teen may need video game addiction treatment.

Before an adolescent is admitted to ERTP, an in-depth screening begins with the first conversation between parents/guardians and a professional admissions adviser. If parents and ERTP’s admissions department determine that ERTP is the best fit for the teen, the admission process continues with a comprehensive enrollment application where parents have the opportunity to further describe what has led to the first phone call for help.

Video Game Addiction as a Means to Escape

“Parents are relieved to hear that our program acknowledges and specializes in video game addiction treatment,” said Kim Crawford of the ERTP admissions department. Ms. Crawford, who has a Master’s Degree in Mental Health Counseling, works with ERTP residents and assists the ERTP Treatment Team at the 125-acre campus in north Alabama. “Addiction is addiction,” Ms. Crawford continued. “Teens are using video games to escape something. It’s our mission to help them uncover what it is that they’re trying to avoid and why. Once it is identified, they can face it, overcome it and move on.”

Once a child is admitted to ERTP, a full medical and psychological evaluation begins and an Individualized Treatment Plan is developed by the ERTP Treatment Team. Video game addiction treatment is not that different from drug addiction treatment. Before healing can begin, the need to “self-medicate” must be acknowledged, addressed and replaced with positive coping skills.

Online gaming is often a symptom of an underlying core issue. The child needs the escape or the feeling of reward that online gaming provides because something else is missing in their life. Video games, cell phones, iPods, iPads, etc. are not allowed at Elk River. Residents are encouraged to work on their issues and use computers for school work only. Some gamers exhibit severe withdrawal symptoms, becoming angry, violent, or depressed if electronics are unavailable. Residential treatment is a safe setting for withdrawal from any addiction.

The Psychological Factor of Video Game Addiction

Unlike alcohol and drug addiction, the biological aspect of video game addiction is uncertain. Research suggests gambling elevates dopamine, but there’s more to addiction than brain chemistry. The addict suffers from a psychological component to the addiction. Online gaming allows a person to escape the real world and change the perception of self-worth.

The lure of a fantasy world is especially pertinent to online role-playing games. These are games in which a player assumes the role of a fictional character and interacts with other players in a virtual world. An intelligent child who is unpopular at school can feel dominant in the game. The virtual life becomes more appealing than real life.

Too much gaming may seem relatively harmless compared with the dangers of a drug overdose, but experts say video game addiction can ruin lives. Children who play four to five hours per day have no time for socializing, doing homework or playing sports leaving little time for normal social development. Imagine a 21-year-old with the emotional intelligence of a 12-year-old who has never learned to talk to girls, or never learned to play a sport.

Video Game Addiction Warning Signs

  1. According to the Center for On-Line Addiction, the warning signs of gaming addiction include:
  • Playing for increasing amounts of time
  • Thinking about gaming during other activities
  • Gaming to escape from real-life problems, anxiety, or depression
  • Lying to friends and family to conceal gaming
  • Feeling irritable when trying to cut down on gaming

In addition, video game addicts tend to become isolated, dropping out of their social networks and giving up other hobbies. Video gaming addicts are typically males, under age 30 and often children with poor self-esteem and social problems, according to specialists. They are intelligent and imaginative but don’t have many friends at school.

A family history of addiction may also be a factor in the propensity of video game addiction which is why ERTP admission counselors require extensive background information from parents before admitting their child into the program.

For more information about video game addiction treatment, please contact an admissions adviser at 866-906-TEEN (8336) or send a confidential email to

Symptoms of Gaming Addiction

Q. I am concerned my child is addicted to online gaming, how do I know if he/she needs treatment?

A. Some of the key signs that your child may be addicted to online gaming include: Irregular daily schedule. If your child plays games all night long and sleeps in the daytime, that can be a warning he or she should seek professional help. If child stops going to school, sports, or other social activities in order to be online or to play a video games. Does your child have to play for longer and longer periods of time to get the same level of enjoyment from the game? Many children that are addicted to gaming become irritable and anxious when they are unable to play regularly. Some video game addicted children experience strong cravings or withdrawals when they are unable to play.