There has been quite a bit of controversial press regarding internet game addiction. More research is showing that people can become addicted to digital gaming. The World Health Organization (WHO) has defined Gaming Disorder in the draft revision of the International Classification of Diseases (ICD-11), Here is a link to WHO Gaming Disorder on the World Health Organization website. WHO states "for gaming disorder to be diagnosed, the behaviour pattern must be of sufficient severity to result in significant impairment in personal, family, social, educational, occupational or other important areas of functioning and would normally have been evident for at least 12 months."
The DSM-5 (diagnostic manual for psychiatrists) was unveiled in May 2013 and it has Internet Gaming Disorder as a condition that requires more research, before it can be added as a disorder that can be diagnosed. Here is a link to Internet Gaming Disorder on the DSM-5 website. If more research is done, this condition may very well become a diagnosis in the next revision of the DSM.
Some professionals in the field feel that internet game addiction is a fad and not a real phenomenon. Having worked with adolescents and young adults, I have seen my share of internet use issues. Some were just issues and were easily remedied, others were fitting an addictive pattern of behavior. If this was a condition with a diagnosis, professionals working with this population would be using it as a primary or secondary diagnosis.
When the use of internet games starts to seriously impede your life functioning, you have a problem in this area. Some people report playing digital games as a stress reliever, a way to unwind at the end of a work/school day, or a way to escape from their life and the reality they face every day. Some people enjoy the fantasy world much more than reality. Some symptoms of gaming addiction include; declining grades (students), increased gaming in the face of negative consequences, focusing on gaming and not other activities you enjoy, lying about game use and feeling anxious when unable to play. There is usually an underlying issue as to why you are using internet games so frequently.
Here are some things you can do if you or a loved one is spending too much time gaming:
If you find that stopping digital gaming is an overwhelming and daunting task, seek professional help. A psychologist or mental health professional can assist you with a treatment plan, provide support and address underlying mental health issues.
Disclaimer: This blog is for informational purposes only and is not meant as a replacement for treatment or therapy.
Dr. Deb is a successful Psychologist who practices in New York City. She is an Anxiety Specialist who works with adolescents and adults providing both individual and couples counseling.