Are eSports The Next Addiction Epidemic?

eSports, also known as ‘electronic sports,’ is the world of organized competitive video gaming.  While many who are unfamiliar with eSports may conjure up an image of middle- or high-school children playing video games on their parent’s couch, eSports has become a 17 billion-dollar industry with professional leagues and professional athletes (yes, they are athletes, but according to some, calling them so is still controversial) and is rapidly growing.  As eSports continues to grow into a successful industry for its athletes and for its conglomerates, some addiction professionals are wondering if eSports, and gaming in general, may be the next addiction epidemic.  


The world of eSports has become so successful that eSport athletes (the gamers) can earn a sizeable income and even earn sponsorships from major corporations.  For example, a notable gamer in the industry, Tyler Blevins who is better known by his alias “Ninja,” is one of the highest-paid personalities in the industry earning over $500,000 per month according to Business Insider, and has an entire clothing and sneaker line with Adidas.  There is no doubt that eSports has arrived, and not only is it here to stay, but some in the sports industry believe that it may grow into a bigger industry than any other sport or sports league.


Part of the rapid growth of the industry may be attributed to the addictive nature of gaming and the technology itself.  Unlike other sports such as basketball or football, video games have a much more addictive nature.  So much so that in 2018, the World Health organization recognized “gaming disorder” in the International Classification of Diseases.  For the player, video games stimulate the same pleasure centers of the brain as drugs and alcohol.  Every time you score a point, beat a level, beat another player or unlock a power, your brain receives a boost of dopamine.  For gamers who play for long periods, there are also changes in the brain’s neural pathways that cause the individual to crave the chemical changes more often, affecting the individual on a subconscious level.  Furthermore, video game developers themselves design games to keep their players engaged.  They do so by building rewards, having hidden features, and side quests.


Gaming has also become addictive from a social standpoint.  eSports takes place online in a forum where you are playing other people, playing other teams, or being viewed by fans on social networks.  This can cause more pressure for the individual to perform well, and also can cause addictive tendencies for the viewers on the other side.  Professional gamers are revered by their followers just as much as basketball fans may revere Michael Jordan or football fans may revere Tom Brady.  Furthermore, with legalized sports betting in many states, some individuals have turned to eSports betting.  This adds an entirely different dynamic and layer into the addictive nature of gaming, and ultimately addiction to gambling.  Gambling disorder involves repeated problematic gambling behavior driven by obsession and compulsion to bet, despite causing significant consequences.  Due to the addictive nature of gambling and the addictive nature of gaming, the two may ultimately exacerbate one another leading to severe problems for individuals who engage in both activities.


This article is not meant to condemn gaming, nor condemn gambling.  Both gaming and gambling can turn into successful professions, and as with any profession one can have a healthy or unhealthy relationship with it.  Gaming and gambling can also serve as completely healthy recreational habits if they aren’t abused.  It is important that individuals are self-aware and recognize if their behaviors are problematic or addictive, and if so, are receptive to receiving help and working on their issues.  If you or a loved one has a problem with gaming, gambling, or any other behavior, it is important to recognize the signs and symptoms and know where to turn if one is in need to support.  Some signs and symptoms of all addictions, be it gaming or gambling, are preoccupation with the behavior, lying to engage in the behavior, hiding the behavior, excessive monetary spending on the behavior, isolation, restlessness, or irritability, to name a few.


There are more sources of help available with easier access than ever before.  A simple internet search for an addiction professional, addiction treatment, or addiction therapist in your area may be a good starting point.  If you live in the New York City area, our team of Manhattan addiction therapists located in the Upper East Side or Brooklyn addiction therapists located in Brooklyn Heights are available to help you if we are an appropriate fit - or guide you towards services that will.  For individuals with a gambling addiction, our team has collaborated with to put together comprehensive information which can be found here:


For more information or to inquire about our private concierge services please contact our highly private and undisclosed addiction and mental health therapy office location in the Upper East Side of New York City today at (929) 220-2912.

Lin Sternlicht & Aaron Sternlicht

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