Video Game Rehab
addiction treatments & recovery options

Addiction is a disorder involving the reward system of the brain. When a person becomes too accustomed to (or reliant on) an external stimulus to activate their brain’s reward centre, addiction may be the result. Video games can therefore serve as the focus of addictive behaviour, which may be difficult to break free from. Many parents therefore take it upon themselves to enter their children into video game rehab, in the hopes of helping them resist the pull of the gaming world, and rediscover the joys of a more balanced lifestyle. If you are willing to get to the core of your loved one’s addiction, they will be much better positioned to end the cycle of suffering.
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Video game addiction – a real disorder?

Excessive digital- or video-gaming activities – also referred to as internet gaming disorder – is a clinical impulse control disorder that was officially recognised by the World Health Organisation in 2018.

Gaming disorder is defined as a ‘pattern of gaming behaviour characterised by impaired control over gaming, increasing priority given to gaming over other activities to the extent that gaming takes precedence over other interests and daily activities, and continuation or escalation of gaming despite the occurrence of negative consequences.

Although such a disorder has not been officially recognised as a mental health disorder by the American Psychiatric Association (APA), the 5th edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders listed Internet Gaming Disorder (IGD) as a condition warranting further study. With that said, gambling disorder is the only behavioural addiction (as opposed to substance use) identified in the DSM-5.

what causes video game addiction?

There are several reasons why a person may become addicted to playing video games. Firstly, addiction fits well with the business model of the industry; video game designers can make a profit if players become addicted to their games. They consequently design games that are challenging enough to keep players coming back for more, but not too hard that their customers will give up. There are often monetary or virtual currency incentives for continuing to play, or for reaching the next level of a game.

Growing neurological evidence points to the possibility that behavioural addictions — such as video-game playing (among others) — can resemble substances such as illicit drugs and alcohol, in terms of their effect on the brain. Strong similarities have been observed between the effects on brain chemistry caused by video games, and by drugs known to be addictive. 

Gaming can trigger the brain’s reward system, releasing dopamine. Where gaming addiction has taken hold, the player’s dopamine receptors and the functioning of these neural pathways have been changed, just as though they were continually using a drug – creating a need for more and more of the same type of stimulation.

Emotional teenager reacts inadequately to video game, awkward age, addiction

Mental health and video gaming addiction

Several studies (cited in an International Journal of Mental Health and Addiction, 2018) show a strong correlation between gaming addiction and mental health disorders such as depression, stress, and anxiety disorders. Internet gaming disorder is a chronic and progressive condition that can often lead to the deterioration of physical and mental health if left untreated. Research has led to the following findings regarding pathological gaming behaviour:
  • Boys using nicotine, alcohol, or cannabis were almost twice as likely to be problematic gamers.
  • Problematic gamers are 2.77 times more likely to be diagnosed with ADHD, and are also more likely to suffer from a mood disorder or substance use disorder.
  • Overuse of handheld gaming devices may cause epilepsy, auditory hallucinations, tendinitis of wrist, thumb, and hand, as well as musculoskeletal problems.
  • Gaming addicts tend to be severely sleep deprived, and are 3 times more likely to have irregular sleep patterns than normal gamers.
Compulsive gaming can also result in the development of conditions like depression, making it vital to get a comprehensive assessment. This way, when the addicted person begins gaming rehab, any co-existing mental health conditions can also be treated as part of their programme. Getting a correct diagnosis and, in some cases, medication for their mental health condition, can give your loved one a better chance of overcoming their gaming addiction.

What is video game rehab?

Video game rehab seeks to address the underlying causes of video game addiction, which may stem from pre-existing mental health issues. Professional rehab for gaming can potentially use a variety of therapeutic methods to help young males break free from their compulsive behaviour, but ultimately the right treatment plan will depend on a comprehensive initial diagnosis. From there, one-on-one counselling as well as group-based treatment can help redirect the addicted person’s focus and mindset, empowering them to resist cravings when they occur.

When should you get help at a gaming rehab?

There are a number of signals to indicate that you or someone you love may have a video game addiction. Similar to criteria for substance use and gambling disorders, if your son’s gaming habits are causing their relationships, work, or school studies to suffer, then there is a good chance they would benefit from entering video game rehab. A diagnosis of Internet Gaming Disorder is deemed appropriate when five or more of the following has been occurring within a 12-month period.

  • Needing to game for longer each time to feel ‘satisfied’
  • Continuing to game despite the negative consequences it is having on their relationships and work life
  • Feeling that they have no control over their gaming behaviour
  • Losing interest in spending time with loved ones or taking part in other hobbies
  • Experiencing negative emotions such as frustration, anger or depression when they are not on the internet, and having these feelings ease when they start gaming
  • Continually thinking about gaming
  • Lying to friends and families to cover up their gaming habits
  • Using gaming as a means to escape from unpleasant moods or feelings
  • Risking or losing opportunities (relationships, career, educational, etc.) due to gaming

Outpatient vs inpatient rehab for gaming

Video gaming addiction can be addressed in either an outpatient or inpatient treatment setting.

Outpatient gaming rehab

Outpatient video game addiction rehab centres allow the addicted person to receive focused treatment to help them recover from their video game addiction. Therapy sessions are scheduled for several hours each week, allowing the gaming addict to talk about their feelings, overcome their compulsions, and learn to redirect their focus away from the thought of playing more video games.

Because outpatient care does not have a residential component, however, your loved one will be unsupervised by professionals whenever he is outside the rehab centre – making it necessary for him to receive support at home, while also exerting the requisite self-discipline to stay away from video games while he is not at therapy. Outpatient care is therefore intended to treat mild video game addictions, in cases where there are no other psychological issues to address, and a supportive environment at home.

Inpatient gaming rehab

Inpatient care places gaming addicts in a safe and controlled environment for the full duration of their treatment programme. Inpatient care is the more effective option for complex, moderate, or severe cases of behavioural addiction, as it allows professional staff to monitor the addicted person and provide any necessary support 24 hours a day. While outpatient treatment can also be effective, inpatient programmes are generally more structured and more comprehensive.

There is additional value in the supportive environment and physical distance that inpatient care puts between each addicted person and the video games they are trying to break away from. Treatment for dual diagnosis is also offered at many inpatient centres. For both inpatient and outpatient care, longer rehab programmes and continuity of care result in higher success rates.

How is gaming disorder treated?

Counselling and behaviour modification are the most commonly advised methods for treating this form of behavioural addiction. A quality gaming rehab facility can provide your loved one with a comprehensive treatment programme that includes one-on-one counselling, Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT), pharmacotherapy, and the diagnosis/treatment of any other addictions which may also be present. This approach has proven to be the most effective way to treat video gaming addiction.

Video game addiction rehab begins with a comprehensive assessment that takes into account your loved one’s physical and mental health, their family history, their pattern of gaming behaviour, and any other addictions they may suffer from, such as alcohol or drugs. Professional video game rehab should also look at any past trauma they may have experienced, which could be contributing to their gaming disorder. If any underlying mental health condition is identified, medication might be prescribed as part of their video gaming treatment.

Once a treatment plan is formalised, your son will undergo individual and group therapy sessions that will address the reasons why they began gaming and why they have been unable to stop. Video game addiction rehab centres can also help compulsive gamers identify underlying issues that are contributing to their addiction – such as chronic depression, past trauma, or co-occurring substance abuse.

At the end of their treatment, they should receive a discharge programme which features a comprehensive relapse prevention plan. This is designed to give the addicted person the tools they need – physically, mentally and emotionally – to manage the triggers of their gaming addiction. Their discharge programme may also include a schedule of follow-up appointments, so that they feel guided and supported upon returning home.

How long is video game rehab?

There are several factors to consider when it comes to the duration of gaming rehabilitation; but in general, a minimum stay of 30 days is required. If your loved one has any co-occurring addictions or a history of mental health issues, they may be advised to stay longer in rehab in order to work on other areas of their life. Such an arrangement might lead to a 60-day or 90-day programme, depending on the complexities of their case.

How much does gaming rehab cost?

Depending on the level of care, the type of facility your loved one requires, the location, and the length of stay, the general price tag for treatment ranges from:
  • $3,000 – $7,000 per week for intensive outpatient programmes (IOPs)
  • $8,000 – $30,000 for a 30-day standard inpatient rehab programme
  • $40,000 – $100,000 for a 30-day luxury inpatient rehab programme

Video game addiction rehab in Thailand

For most people, the cost of rehab is a major hindrance when it comes to deciding where to go for rehab. Basic addiction services in Western countries can be quite expensive, which is why many people suffering from addiction are beginning to look for rehab options overseas, where the cost of living is much lower.
Rehabs in Thailand provide the chance for your son to recover in a tranquil environment, under the care of a team of world-class addiction professionals. Video gaming rehab programmes in Thailand are a fraction of the cost of similar treatment facilities in countries like Australia, the UK, or the USA.
If the time has come for your loved one to embrace a life without gaming, contact us to schedule a call. One of our clinical coordinators will be happy to discuss the best treatment programmes with you, for a lasting recovery.
Cameron Brown
  1. “Gaming Disorder.” WHO, World Health Organization, 14 Sept. 2018,
  2. American Psychiatric Association: Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition. Arlington, VA, American Psychiatric Association, 2013. Available at: Google Scholar [Accessed 18 Feb 2020].
  3. Grant, Jon E et al. “Introduction to behavioral addictions.” The American journal of drug and alcohol abuse vol. 36,5 (2010): 233-41. doi:10.3109/00952990.2010.491884
  4. Yau, Yvonne H C, and Marc N Potenza. “Gambling disorder and other behavioral addictions: recognition and treatment.” Harvard review of psychiatry vol. 23,2 (2015): 134-46. doi:10.1097/HRP.0000000000000051
  5. Smith, K.L., Hummer, T.A. & Hulvershorn, L.A. Pathological Video Gaming and Its Relationship to Substance Use Disorders. Curr Addict Rep 2, 302–309 (2015).
  6. Torres-Rodríguez, A., Griffiths, M.D. & Carbonell, X. The Treatment of Internet Gaming Disorder: a Brief Overview of the PIPATIC Program. Int J Ment Health Addiction 16, 1000–1015 (2018).
  7. Naskar, Subrata et al. “One level more:” A narrative review on internet gaming disorder.” Industrial psychiatry journal vol. 25,2 (2016): 145-154. doi:10.4103/ipj.ipj_67_16
  8. Internet Gaming. Reviewed by Ranna Parekh, The American Psychiatric Association (APA),

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