Signs Your Spouse Has a Gaming Addiction

For many, video games are a great way to wind down after a long day. These games can offer a virtual escape into an intricate fantasy world. They demand skill and nurture competition, all from the comfort of a chair at home.

But what happens when gaming crosses the line from a fun way to kill time into an addiction that impacts personal relationships? 

Is my spouse addicted to video games?

Perhaps you once spent your evenings sharing dinner and Netflix with your spouse and kids. Now, your spouse jumps into a fantasy world that doesn’t include you or the kids. Maybe this behavior extends into the wee hours of the morning, prompting you to joke about being a “gamer widow.”

Is this cause for concern? Is it possible to become addicted to video games? Moreover, is your spouse a video game addict?

Signs of video game addiction

Like many addictions, researchers believe that gaming addictions trigger a release of dopamine. Known as the “feel good” hormone, its pleasurable effect is part of the body’s reward system. In short, people can get hooked on the feeling gaming gives them. 

Some signs that your spouse’s video game interests have escalated from a pleasurable pastime to something serious can include the following:

  • Compulsion: The game has gone from a fun way to spend downtime to a compulsive need. It gets in the way of the addicted spouse’s other personal or professional responsibilities and interests.
  • Irritability and restlessness: Your spouse gets moody or surly when not playing or if you suggest they reduce their playing time.
  • Escape: Gaming has become a way for your spouse to evade or escape real-life problems and challenges.
  • Spending an increasing amount of money: Your spouse has begun spending more on gaming subscriptions and video gaming equipment.

A person with an addictive personality may develop cravings for the substance or activity that gives them the dopamine release.

Gaming addiction and marriage

A person’s first interactions with video gaming are usually seen as a laid-back way to spend time. But these games can demand progressively more attention and focus. Many require an immersion into the game’s fantasy world to complete them. Because of this, the virtual reality can often feel real. 

Games can be isolating, but gamers often interact with other gamers on the gaming platform. This can become a substitute for real-life interactions, including marriage

If your spouse is compulsively drawn to their gaming life instead of spending time with you, it isn’t just affecting their well-being. It’s also affecting yours. And over time, your spouse’s addiction can affect the quality of your marriage.

Addiction affects people and their relationships in myriad ways. If your spouse has become caught up in the world of video games, you might find any of the following to be true:

  • They have less time for you and your relationship. You feel like they’d rather be playing a video game than spending time with you.
  • The lack of time spent together has caused emotional disconnection. They’re longer interested in conversations or even sex.
  • They neglect other aspects of their life. This can include time spent with you, the kids, work, and even activities of daily living like showering.
  • They get argumentative if you suggest they cut back on their gaming. Or, they break promises of cutting back.
  • They spend marital funds on gaming activities.
  • They don’t see their gaming as a problem. If you try to bring it up, they argue that you “don’t understand.”

Diagnosis and treatment

Mental health providers use the American Psychiatric Association's Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) to diagnose mental disorders. The DSM-5 considers Internet Gaming Disorder (IGD) as “a common disorder” that “often accompanies depression, hostility, and social anxiety.”

To receive a diagnosis for IGD, gaming behaviors must be extreme enough to impair a person’s personal, family, social, educational, or professional functioning for at least one year. 

Upon diagnosis, the mental health provider may suggest one or a combination of the following:

  • Talk therapy to address compulsive behavior and other underlying behaviors and issues
  • Strict limitations on playing hours
  • Medication to address possible co-existing issues, such as depression or anxiety

It can also be helpful for people suffering from gaming addictions to get additional emotional support from a supportive group of others who also suffer from video game addiction, such as Online Gamers Anonymous (OGA).

As a spouse, it’s necessary to prioritize your own well-being, too. Consider seeking therapy or joining a support group. OGA offers spouses of online video gamers their own support to help them understand and deal with spousal addiction. 

If you suspect your spouse is addicted to video gaming

If you suspect that your spouse is addicted to video games, it’s important to note that they may not understand the addictive qualities of their activity or how it has affected your relationship.

Open a dialog with them, and be honest about how you feel their gaming has affected your marriage. Suggest getting professional help and even couples therapy to address how it has affected your relationship. 

Establish boundaries, and be forthright about what you expect and will no longer accept in your relationship. While you don’t want to be accusatory, your spouse also needs to know you’re no longer willing to live the way you’re living. 

Alcohol abuse and drug addiction aren’t the only types of addiction that can affect a marriage. If your spouse’s addictive behaviors revolve around video gaming, your concerns are valid, and your recovery from this distress is imperative.

Addictions in a marriage can be difficult to overcome, and if things don’t improve, you might be left to consider a separation or divorce. If you’re feeling overwhelmed by this, we’re here to help. At Hello Divorce, we offer legal and other professional services that can help you make sense of your situation. Schedule a free phone call to discuss your options. 

Divorce Content Specialist
Mediation, Divorce Strategy, Divorce Process, Mental Health
Candice is a former paralegal and has spent the last 16 years in the digital landscape, writing website content, blog posts, and articles for the legal industry. Now, at Hello Divorce, she is helping demystify the complex legal and emotional world of divorce. Away from the keyboard, she’s a devoted wife, mom, and grandmother to two awesome granddaughters who are already forces to be reckoned with. Based in Florida, she’s an avid traveler, painter, ceramic artist, and self-avowed bookish nerd.