Is Your Childs Gaming Behavior Destructive?

The World Health Organization released its updated International Classification of Diseases and named video game addiction as a diagnosable disease. Officially called “gaming disorder,” the condition is marked by situations in which playing digital games has interfered with an individual’s schoolwork, career, social life, or home life. While not everyone who plays video games develops this addiction, the WHO classification is marked by symptoms common to all types of addition.

The Symptoms of Gaming Disorder

As a new classification, it may be difficult to be recognize a gaming addiction, especially considering the broad definition provided by the World Health Organization. While WHO defines the condition as allowing gaming to interfere with one’s daily life and leading to negative consequences, the American Psychiatric Association is hoping to pigeonhole the illness a little better.

The APA has released a diagnostic criteria that is much more refined. The drafted diagnostic definition, which may appear in the next edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM), lists a series of symptoms. In order for a diagnosis of gaming addiction to be applied, the individual must exhibit at least five of these symptoms:

  • An obsession or preoccupation with digital games
  • Exhibiting withdrawal symptoms, when not playing internet games
  • Building a tolerance, requiring the individual to spend more time playing
  • One or more failed attempts to quit or reduce gaming time
  • Loss of interest in other activities
  • Continued use of games in spite of recognizing negative consequences
  • Lying to family or friends about gaming activities
  • Playing games to alleviate anxiety or guilt
  • Gaming has sabotaged relationships, or has caused strain in relationships

Treating Gaming Addiction is Still Ambivalent

As a new disorder, there’s still much research to be done on the nature of gaming addiction, particularly in how it will be treated. Dr. Andrew Saxon, who holds a chair on the APA’s Council on Addiction Psychiatry, said there hasn’t been enough research completed in the area of treating this type of addiction. While some have studied the phenomenon, their recommendations should be considered preliminary and may change as new studies are conducted.

Dr. Petros Levounis of Rutgers’ New Jersey Medical School Department of Psychology says cognitive behavioral therapy has shown benefits in some patients. The therapy requires that the individual admits the problem, so strategies for resistance can be developed and implemented. He added that psychotherapy and traditional therapy can also benefit individuals suffering from gaming addiction.

The problem with diagnosing gaming addiction is that playing video games isn’t seen as a destructive behavior. For that reason, those participating in the activity may be reluctant to recognize a problem. Even where the gaming results in negative consequences, such as failing a grade in school or losing a job, the individual may not connect their gaming habit to those consequences.

Gaming Addiction and the Brain

Dr. Saxon points out that people who have pre-existing mental illnesses are at a higher risk of developing gaming addiction. He adds that, if conditions like ADHD, depression, or anxiety can be treated, internet gaming disorder may be easier to treat as well. This may have something to do with the way that internet gaming affects the brain.

Research has been conducted to compare behavioral addictions to chemical addictions and the results have indicated that both types of addiction have similar effects on the brain. For instance, the desire to play a video game causes a reaction in the same portion of the brain that’s activated when drug users think about feeding their addictions. Similarly, the same region is also activated in compulsive gamblers.

Some researchers also believe prolonged internet gaming addiction has a negative effect on memory and other cognitive functions. In a 2012 study, the effects gaming had on the memory were similar to the way substance use affected memory in drug addicts. Overall, neurobiological mechanisms may be influenced similarly in internet gaming addicts, when compared to gambling addicts and in those abusing drugs or alcohol.

For this reason, the best help may come from facilities experienced in treating a number of established addictions. While WHO and the American Psychiatric Organization work on developing better definitions and treatment therapies, existing addiction facilities, such as Centered Health, can provide an efficient method of treatment. By helping individuals face their addiction through therapy and traditional treatments, Centered Health can help you and your loved ones confront internet gaming addiction in a compassionate and supportive environment.