Playing video games has become a popular hobby, and it’s even become a competitive sport around the world. With over 100 million Americans spending hours getting lost in virtual worlds, many concerns and questions continue to rise. 

So how many hours of gaming is too much?

Although there isn't a definitive answer, the amount of time spent gaming isn't as relevant as how much it interferes with daily activities and responsibilities. The issue may be a fine line between “when” rather than “how much.

When it becomes too much-gaming addiction

Similar to other behavioral addictions, video game addiction is controversial. 

Although it isn’t included in the DSM-5, Internet Gaming Disorder is listed as a condition for further study. The criteria used to diagnose IGD include experiencing at least 5 of the following 9 criteria over 12 months:

  • Withdrawal symptoms when gaming isn't available
  • Gaming preoccupation
  • Tolerance or an increased amount of time needed to feel satisfied
  • Irritability when not playing games
  • Loss of interest in other activities such as school or work
  • Downplaying use or lying about the amount of time spent playing games
  • Loss of sleep
  • Gaming as a way of relieving  anxiety or negative moods
  • Jeopardized or loss of a relationship, job, or other opportunities due to gaming

Research has shown that between 0.3% and 1.0% of Americans might have an internet gaming disorder. Although more studies are needed to establish validity, gaming has been associated with sleep deprivation, depression, anxiety, and circadian rhythm disorders. 

The amount of exposure to extreme violence often found in video games has also been a cause of concern. It desensitizes teens and young adults to it and can result in emotional problems or even acting upon similar acts of violence. Recognizing video game addiction as an official diagnosis would allow support services to be integrated into recovery programs and provide proper staff training. 

Gaming in moderation

While excessive use of video games can become problematic, it's essential to recognize some of the advantages, such as:

  • Improved self-esteem
  • Improved hand-eye coordination
  • Potential to develop positive social skills
  • Problem-solving or critical thinking abilities

On the other hand, most of the adverse effects of gaming can be improved, if not avoided. Limiting the number of screentime and engaging in healthier alternatives like exercise or spending time with friends is crucial to achieving a healthy balance. 

Education is an essential key to injury prevention. Although it's not commonly addressed, gamers would benefit from knowing how to protect physical aspects like their hands, elbows, eyes, emotional states, and sleep habits. Simple solutions can include implementing breaks, stretching, choosing healthier snacks, or addressing any signs of physical pain can address injuries before developing into something more significant.

A healthy balance 

Overall, video games can be fun and social when integrated into a healthy lifestyle that includes plenty of sleep, exercise, and good nutrition, rather than letting the game become your life. If you or someone you know are struggling, please seek help from a trained professional for help, guidance, and support.