Video Game Addiction and Emotional States: Possible Confusion Between Pleasure and Happiness? (2020)

Front Psychol. 2020 Jan 27;10:2894. doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2019.02894. eCollection 2019.

Gros L1,2, Debue N1, Lete J1, van de Leemput C1.


Internet gaming disorder is characterized by a severely reduced control over gaming, resulting in an increasing gaming time and leading to negative consequences in many aspects of the individual life: personal, family, social, occupational and other relevant areas of functioning (World Health Organization). In the last years, the significant boom in using video games has been raising health issues that remain insufficiently understood. The extent of this phenomenon (the estimated prevalence is between 1.7 and 10% of the general population) has led the mentioned Organization to include gaming disorders in the list of mental health conditions (2018). Several studies show converging findings that highlight the common brain activities between substance use disorders and behavioral addictions (i.e., gaming disorders). Addiction specialists observed that addict subjects tend to confuse pleasure with happiness when linking emotional states to their addictive activities. As far as we know, beyond the mentioned observations, distinguishing the perception of these two emotional states in the frame of an addiction has not been yet the object of formal research. This study aims at examining the possible confusion between pleasure and happiness within the addiction sphere. Video game addiction has been chosen to explore the possible occurrence of this perceptional distortion. A mixed design lab-based study was carried out to compare between video games addicts and non-addicts (between-subjects), and video games-related activities and neutral activities (within-subject). Emotional reactions were gauged by self-reported scales and physiological data acquired through a range of biosensors: Relaxation and Hearth Rate. From a therapeutic standpoint, this research intends to explore alternatives to deal with this sort of disorders. More specifically, at the cognitive level, the idea is elaborating guidelines to develop patients’ insights into these emotional states and thus increasing their ability to handle them. Overall, several indices resulting from this study constitute a bundle of arguments that argue in favor of the confusion between pleasure and happiness made by addict users when associating their affective states to video gaming. Furthermore, this approach illustrates how reappraising emotions may contribute to reducing the perceptional distortion of these emotional states.

KEYWORDS: addiction; confusion; emotional states; pleasure and happiness; video games

PMID: 32047450

PMCID: PMC6996247

DOI: 10.3389/fpsyg.2019.02894