SOURCE: California Association of Marriage and Family Therapists

August 14, 2007 12:31 ET

Online Video Games: Could the Perfect Escape Be a Psychiatric Disorder?

SAN DIEGO, CA--(Marketwire - August 14, 2007) - Couples are divorcing, children are missing out on their social connections, sporting activities, and even the will to attend school. And, sadly, some are even committing suicide because of their need to play online games. "Healthy" gamers seem to know how to play games responsibly, but like those who are chemically addicted, other gamers don't seem to know when to stop playing -- and to serious detriment.

Whether a true psychiatric disorder, a symptom of another problem, or just over-indulgence, the California Association of Marriage and Family Therapists (CAMFT) wishes to send this reminder to those who play video games: to play responsibly, and to maintain good health, productivity, and quality of life. If you feel as though you may be hooked on video gaming, there are support groups and other treatment options available.

Definitions of the problem as given by Pamela Shavaun Scott, Marriage and Family Therapist, during the California Association of Marriage and Family Therapists' (CAMFT's) 43rd Annual Conference in May are:

(1)  Technology is developing avenues for expression at a phenomenal rate
     -- more rapidly than the effects upon individuals and society can be
     evaluated. In fact, many companies are beginning to advertise in games
     and on internet virtual worlds. Some schools and universities are
     beginning to consider holding classes in virtual worlds (note that
     these are NOT your typical online courses).

(2)  For millions of people globally, "primary life" (real life) has been
     replaced with "secondary life" (virtual life experienced over the
     internet), which Scott claims to have largely occurred within the past
     five years. One such person was overweight and led a private lonely
     life. EverQuest provided him a life and this "second life" was the
     only one he really wanted to live.

(3)  We are seeing consequences of abandonment of primary life as evidenced
     by compulsive behaviors that impact functioning negatively in the
     areas of occupation/education, social/familial relationships, and
     general life management.

The Center for Internet Addiction Recovery offers these warning signs for gamers that may be dangerously hooked to video games:

--  Gamers who play almost every day
--  Gamers who play for extended periods of time (some reports indicate 2
    hours, The Center for Internet Addiction Recovery indicates over 4 hours)
--  Experiencing restlessness or irritability if they can't play
--  Sacrificing other social activities just to game
--  A pre-occupation with gaming
--  Lying or hiding gaming use
--  Disobedience of time limits
--  Social withdrawal from family and friends

It is, of course, important that our teachers, doctors, therapists, parents, and other family members understand the risks of too much time online. For gamers, self-monitoring skills are essential.

Therapy is a cost-effective alternative treatment which offers short- and long-term interventions. Group therapy may be especially appealing to gamers because it is a safe environment. An interactive group session encourages interaction between group members and provides an opportunity for gamers to learn to better interact and reconnect in "real" life.

A mental health professional, such as a licensed Marriage and Family Therapist (MFT) is trained to assess, diagnose, and treat individuals with conditions, such as stress, anxiety, depression, or an addiction. To learn more about the services offered by Marriage and Family Therapists, visit California's online mental health resource,


The California Association of Marriage and Family Therapists, with 27 chapters throughout the state, is an independent professional association, representing the interests of licensed Marriage and Family Therapists. CAMFT provides as a resource to the public looking for Marriage and Family Therapists located in California. For more information about CAMFT, please call (858) 292-2638 or visit


To find a therapist in California --

Online Gamers Anonymous --

The Center for Internet Addiction Recovery --

Contact Information

  • Contact:
    Hillary Angel
    Phone: (909) 390-1239
    E-mail: Email Contact