Ask a Psychologist: Video Games and Relationships

Dr. Stacey Soeldner, a clinical psychologist and "life coach" with Riverhill Psychological Associates in Manitowoc, Wisc., loves to answer reader questions in her column "Ask a Psychologist." Today’s question has to do with a wife’s angst over her husband’s "obsession" with video games. The question:

Q. My husband and I have been having difficulties lately, and I believe it is due to the amount of time he spends playing video games. We are always arguing about this, and he just tells me that I am crazy. I do not understand anything about these games, so maybe I am wrong. I just think that this is an obsession for him. Am I the crazy one?

Her Answer? No, she is not crazy. The good doctor does point out that, while the "American Psychological Association has not identified playing video games as an addiction or obsession, it has been researching it."

She then give the reader a checklist of questions to determine the level of "addiction" or "obsession" her husband might have:

1 – Do you or a loved one consistently play video games to the point of exhaustion?

2 – Do you or a loved one have an inability to stop or cut down playing video games once you have started, despite wanting to?

3 – Do you or a loved one have negative consequences arise due to continuous play?

4 – Do you or a loved one deny that playing the video games are a problem despite feedback from a spouse, relative, friend or employer?

5 – Do you or a loved one continue playing the video game despite experiencing persistent or recurring, vocational, social or relationship problems that are directly caused by the playing of the video game? (For example, being tired at work, being late for work or not engaging in social activities.)

6 – Do you or a loved one have a need to play the video game more to get the same effect as when you began playing?

7 – Do you or a loved one suspend important social, recreational or occupational activities because they interfere with playing the video game? (For example, calling in sick for work or skipping your son’s soccer game.)

She goes on to tell the reader that if she was able to answer "yes" to any of these questions, then there is a problem. She adds that "this behavior can be due to other disorders, such as depression" and that "whatever the cause, it would be beneficial for this person to seek psychological treatment." 

Read the whole thing here.

Tweet about this on TwitterShare on FacebookShare on Google+Share on RedditEmail this to someone


  1. 0
    GrimCW says:

    heh i know that one :)

    BEFORE work i’ll sometimes sit in the shop and play my PSP or fiddle on my phone. Now given i’m doing this before 7 (when we start), and i get there at round 6’ish, theres no problem right?

    nah, now anytime i’m seen with my phone in hand, or reaching into the work truck i’m automatically accused of playing games. I have ADHD and have to fidget since i can’t sit still for to long before getting somewhat drowzy. someone accused me of playing games on my phone during an OSHA meeting because i was flipping it open/shut under the table (not even looking at it) just to keep myself from going nuts..

    needless to say it was a fun time since the only person who didn’t know it was a joke was the OSHA lady… oye


  2. 0
    Weatherlight says:

    Come now Zippy not all of us with a "higher education" forget that. Then again, the least destructive of my habits is games, yet it is still not socially acceptable.

    For example, someone who has a rough time at work is allowed to go to the bar and have a few drinks after work, however you cannot pound out some time on your favorite FPS without red flags going everywhere…


  3. 0
    GrimCW says:

    despite it sounds wrong i’m sure, you only had to say she was "hardcore christian" and i understood right there..

    problem is, some of the "hardcore" ones are the worst offenders of what they preach as wrong.. and others.. others just push to hard upon those that don’t want it.

    there is a fat line between doing things right, and just being obsessive folks :) so its not hard to avoid.

  4. 0
    Flamespeak says:

    I had a buddy who wife told him she was going to leave him because of his ‘obsession with video games’. He worked 12 hour shifts, did all the cleaning and cooking at home, didn’t drink, didn’t smoke, and his wife was raised hardcore Christian and felt that intercourse was for making babies only and was a horrible act otherwise so he got nookie maybe 3 times a year from his wife that worked part time.

    When he played maybe 10 hours a week worth of video games, he was ‘destroying the marriage’ according to his wife.

    After seeing this go down first hand, I can never take the complaint of ‘he plays too much video games and it is destroying our marriage’ seriously without finding out a lot about the situation.

    note – he divorced her and got remarried to someone who is sane and they are happy with 5 kids now.

  5. 0
    GrimCW says:

    that makes me feel better right there :)

    cause i have known some shrinks to actually base crappy diagnoses off of very minimal information and a lack actual symptoms. so seeing the any wasn’t a total surprise and i was dumb enough not to look into it further :p

    my sister is convinced for instance that our little 7 yo cousin (she’s his guardian atm, as his mother is a piece of trash that should be shot) is a destructive, inattentive, little spaz, because the therapist she took him to told her so. Problem.. the kid barely talked to the therapist and my sister did all the talking!

    to boot, the kids only 7 years old! and a boy! of COURSE he’s going to take his toys apart and break things… i mean wow.. but because this smart guy said its "abnormal" she believes it!… if i didn’t JUST get into having a mortgage, i swear i’d fight to get the kid from’er before she turns him into some seriously f-ed up anti-social schizophrenic, agoraphobic, piece of jail bait.

  6. 0
    GrimCW says:

    yes to ANY of them?

    thats pretty bad advice there, just because a person may fit one or two criteria for something doesn’t make it the immediate issue. now if they fit more than two.. theres def a problem to be had and looked into. But fitting just one or two describers of any diagnoses is no reason to assume its an accurate diagnoses.

    otherwise anyone who’s ever had a brain fart is suffering some serious short term memory loss problems! lets go to the doctors!

    especially the one about someone else saying its a problem, many would complain that for any number of reasons just because its something to complain about.

    however, if it was the employer.. thats a differant story :)

    and i love how denial is always a step in these things. so if you admit its a problem, that makes it not a problem… right.

  7. 0
    Vake Xeacons says:

    Well…I can’t judge the doctor just yet. She’s at least admitting this hasn’t been identified as an addiction, and that there’s plenty of other problems at play.

    The only issue I have is they’d probably need to mark off at least three or four of these questions before there’s a problem, and some are worse than others. And I like Wintermute’s questions better! These all should have been asked by a professional psychologist.

  8. 0
    wintermute says:

    Wow, there was a lot missing from that lady’s question.  How often does he play, and how long do his normal gaming sessions last?  Does he play online, and if so does he play with anyone he already knows, from work, or famliy, or friends, ect?  What exactly does he play, are these browser based games, or are these full games?  How far does he go beyond just playing videogames, does he read magazines, follow websites and blogs, is he part of a clan/guild?

    We also aren’t hearing how she views gaming, someone who sees gaming as nothing but a waste of time would say that a person who treats gaming as a normal hobby, which does usually involve an investment in both time and money, as some form of addiction instead.

    The questions asked by the doctor can be asked about everything else to get a very basic determination of a possible addiction.  

  9. 0
    FlakAttack says:

    From what I’ve seen, game addictions are sort of like marijuana "addiction": generally the addiction is not the problem, it is a symptom of something else (or even a form of treatment, depending on the situation).

Leave a Reply