Definition, Indicators and Prevalence

The fairly recent advent of social media, exponential improvements in electronic gaming technology and the growth of the internet itself have all happened within a lifetime. While the world's medical and psychological communities are still considering classifications, there is a clear consensus that social media, general internet use, and gaming are all capable of becoming addictive.   

Furthermore, it is almost certain that an addiction to technology, like any other form of addiction, will co-occur with mental illness.  Some of the most frequent mental health disorders which co-occur are ADHD, Anxiety Disorders, Major Depressive Disorder, Autism Spectrum Disorder, and Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder. 

Regardless of what we choose to call these patterns, signs, and symptoms, there is universal agreement that abuse of the internet, social media and gaming has destructive, debilitating impacts on the whole person:

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Physical & Self-Care: Irregular and/or insufficient sleep, poor eating habits, little to no exercise, poor hygiene.


  1. Elevated stress hormones compromise the immune system 

  2. Excessive weight gain or weight loss, leading to chronic medical problems such as diabetes.

  3. Healthy brain development can be interrupted or limited, such as permanent disruption to the reward pathways 

    • Studies now show this can increase the risk of substance abuse and addiction

  4. Back, neck, eye and wrist damage (Carpel Tunnel) 

  5. Overall reinforcement of negative behavioral patterns that lower life expectancy and quality, such as social isolation (see below).

Social & Familial:

Making threats or being aggressive if gaming or internet is restricted, Isolating from friends and family, ignoring social or familial obligations,  deceptive behavior such as lying or sneaking technology use.


  1. Lack of social support system often worsens or exacerbates mental health issues such as depression or anxiety.

    • An increased risk of suicide, substance use, and self-harm​

  2. An overall disruption of the family unit and relationships, including marital conflict.

  3. Deficiency in social skills has a wide range of implications

    • Problems obtaining a job or in career advancement​

    • Difficulty finding and/or maintaining an intimate relationship

Other indicators and consequences may include low academic achievement, excessive absences or tardies from school, massively lower college admittance rates and much higher drop-out rates, poor self-esteem and self-confidence and denial that there is even a problem, to begin with.  

The ICD, or International Classification of Diseases (ICD-11), is the universal standard for treatment, research and diagnostics. The ICD calls gaming addiction Gaming Disorder and is defined as:

  "A pattern of gaming behavior ('digital-gaming' or 'video-gaming') characterized 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.''


The United States' version of the ICD, the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM-V) simirarily has Internet Gaming Disorder though this diagnosis has yet to be made official.​


Though definitions for other related addictions such as to social media or general internet use are starting to be considered Internet Addiction Disorder (IAD), the signs, symptoms, and consequences remain the same.

Prevalence Rates and Statistics

  • As of 2019, the gaming industry's revenue was $120.1 billion, up from $99.6 billion in 2016.

    • Over 90% of children and teenagers in the United States now play video games

  • As of 2019, research in the US demonstrates that at least 4.9% of teens (ages 13-18) meet or exceed criteria for IGD

    • 8.5% ​of males ages 14-18 meet criteria for IGD

  • Overuse of social media, Internet, and gaming by US teenagers and young adults has been tied to major increases in the rates and severity of mental illnesses. Such abuse and addictions often exacerbate pre-existing mental health disorders.

    • Massive increases in the diagnosis rates and symptoms of clinical depression and anxiety

    • One of the most common disorders that co-occur with Technology Addiction is ADHD.

    • Teens and young adults on the Autism Spectrum are much more likely to meet criteria for a Technology Addiction.

  • Treatment success rates in the US are quite low compared to other behavioral addictions, due in part to a lack of specialized treatment providers. Sadly, it is rare that a mental health provider in the US will have even a foundational understanding of Technology Addictions.​

    • One of the world's leading experts on the subject, Dr. Mark Griffiths, published multiple studies that showed a shocking and concerning lack of treatment competence in mental health providers in the US.​​

  • Thankfully, the handful of specialized treatment programs and providers in the United States do yield excellent results

    • One study found that 78% of US teens who received specialized treatment no longer met IGD criteria after a 6-month follow-up survey.

The statistics, prevalence rates, and treatment claims throughout this website are not the sole opinion or invention of Alex Basche but come from the below research studies, articles, and meta-analyses.

  1. Cerniglia, L., Griffiths, M. D., Cimino, S., De Palo, V., Monacis, L., Sinatra, M., & Tambelli, R. (2019). A latent profile approach for the study of internet gaming disorder, social media addiction, and psychopathology in a normative sample of adolescents. Psychology research and behavior management, 12, 651–659. doi:10.2147/PRBM.S211873

  2. The association for UK Interactive Entertainment: global gaming fact sheet. from​

  3. Choi, B. Y., Huh, S., Kim, D. J., Suh, S. W., Lee, S. K., & Potenza, M. N. (2019). Transitions in Problematic Internet Use: A One-Year Longitudinal Study of Boys. Psychiatry investigation, 16(6), 433–442. doi:10.30773/pi.2019.04.02.1

  4. The NPD Group. The video game industry is adding 2–17-year old gamers at a rate higher than that age group’s population growth. Available at: Accessed December 15th, 2019.

  5. Rideout VJ, Foehr UG, Roberts DF. Generation M2: Media in the lives of 8- to 18-year-olds. Available at: Accessed December 16th, 2019

  6. Young KS. Cognitive behavior therapy with internet addicts: Treatment outcomes and implications. CyberPsychology & Behavior. 2007;10(5):671–679.

  7. Young KS. Treatment outcomes using CBT-IA with internet-addicted patients. Journal of Behavioral Addictions. 2013;2(4):209–215.

  8. Pallesen S., Lorvik I. M., Bu E. H., Molde H. (2015). An exploratory study investigating the effects of a treatment manual for video game addiction. Psychol. Rep. 117, 490–495.

  9. Gentile, D. A., Bailey, K., Bavelier, D., Brockmyer, J. F., Cash, H., Coyne, S. M., . . . Markle, T. (2017). Internet Gaming Disorder in children and adolescents. Pediatrics, 140, S81–S85. doi:10.1542/peds.2016-1758H

  10. Colder Carras, M., Van Rooij, A. J., Van de Mheen, D., Musci, R. J., Xue, Q. L., & Mendelson, T. (2017). Video gaming in a hyperconnected world: A cross-sectional study of heavy gaming, problematic gaming symptoms, and online socializing in adolescents. Computers in Human Behavior, 68, 472-479.

References and Sources