Gaming Disorder - What Are The 'At Risk' Warning Signs & What Is The Treatment

There's no doubt the world is becoming more and more aware of the risks of gaming disorder. Parents are concerned they are losing the battle over screen use, the World Health Organization has added gaming disorder to its latest revision to the International Classification of Diseases, even major gaming companies have begun acknowledging there is an issue. 

Fortunately, support is becoming more widely available for those at risk of or suffering from gaming disorder. However, the treatment is different from what we have come to expect for addiction-like diagnosis'.

It's important to note that WHO does not use the term addiction in its revision, despite there being several similar signs to other addiction and mental health issues in gaming disorder. Dr. Alok Kanojia, a psychiatrist working with patients dealing with gaming disorder in Boston, said in a recent interview with Fortune that gaming addiction can be more complicated than other addictions, explaining that there are chemical brain responses in conditions like alcoholism that do not occur in gaming disorder patients.

Different responses, mean different treatments: “I think sobriety for gamers involves understanding why do you play the game?” Kanojia said. “To understand the drives behind the game, and to try to replace those drives with healthy alternatives.”

At EMP Pathways, our mission is to provide young people with some of those healthy alternatives. Our first program, the Jam Den, is specifically developed to assist young people at risk of online gaming disorder diagnosis. The program not only gives participants first hand experience of the music industry, but provides them with a safe space where they can create social and professional connections, enhance community networks and supports, while building their confidence and skills. 

You can hear all about the Jam Den program, which we are preparing to roll out a pilot version of, in the video below. We are also currently hosting a fundraiser to support the program, which you can donate to here.


What are some of the 'At Risk' warning signs of Gaming Disorder a young person might display?

There are several warning signs of gaming disorder, many of which appear similar to other addiction and mental health issues. However, here are a few signs you can be on the look at for in yourself or someone you know who might be at risk of gaming disorder.

Psychological 'At Risk' Warning Signs:​

  • Depression/Anxiety
  • Poor mental health
  • Discontentment with life 
  • Alternate reality seeking
  • Low self esteem
  • Need to game to regulate emotions 
  • Decreased interest in school, work, and/or other hobbies


Physical 'At Risk' Warning Signs:​

  • Being male
  • Strict parents
  • Reduced sleeping
  • Less care for personal hygiene/overall cleanliness 
  • Poor eating habits
  • Reduction on overall physical exercise and health 


Behavioural 'At Risk' Warning Signs:​

  • Inability to quit playing
  • Increased amount of time playing video games
  • Verbally or physically aggressive when prevented from playing
  • Poor school performance 
  • Lack of social skills
  • Lack of emotional intelligence
  • Decrease in social connection or time spent with friends