Video Gaming a Newly Considered An Addiction By The DSM

Online video games are popular with reportedly 160 million American adults playing Internet-based games.

The games are created to be and challenging, making it easy to become absorbed in the online game competition. Can video gaming be considered an addiction?

Internet Gaming in DSM-5

The American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5), used by mental health professionals to diagnose mental disorders, reviews video gaming and whether it qualifies as a disorder. When the DSM was last published in 2013, gaming disorder was recognized, and further research was recommended.  In 2017, the World Health Organization (WHO) identified video gaming as a disorder.

Video gaming must cause “significant impairment or distress” in several aspects of life and symptoms of internet-gaming disorder require experiencing five or more of these symptoms:

  • Preoccupation with gaming
  • Withdrawal symptoms when gaming is taken away or not possible (sadness, anxiety, irritability)
  • Tolerance, the need to spend more time gaming to satisfy the urge
  • Inability to reduce playing, unsuccessful attempts to quit gaming
  • Giving up other activities, loss of interest in previously enjoyed activities due to gaming
  • Continuing to the game despite problems
  • Deceiving family members or others about the amount of time spent on gaming
  • The use of gaming to relieve negative moods, such as guilt or hopelessness
  • Risk has jeopardized or lost a job or relationship due to gaming

There is an important distinction to be made between passionate engagement (someone enthusiastic and focused on gaming) and pathology (someone with an illness/addiction). Research is ongoing, however preliminary neurological research outlines similarities between the brain waves of those with video gaming and addictive substance disorders.  Not unlike other disorders, gaming could just be a symptom of another underlying problem, like depression or anxiety, and not a disorder or addiction itself. However, all addictive behaviors are a way of relieving physical and emotional pain. Individuals must identify and address the underlying core trauma to process their emotions with trained clinicians.

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