An addiction to online gaming has now been classified as a mental health condition. In fact, the World Health Organization says that if your child or family member has a “gaming disorder” it can turn into a potentially serious problem later on in life. Experts even agree that video games can have the same addictive qualities as drugs or alcohol, with many parents across the country now seeking help for their children before it’s too late.
CNN reports that in the most recent edition of its International Classification of Diseases, the United Nations agency concludes that people who put their jobs, educations, family or social lives to the side for video games meet the criteria for a new form of addiction called gaming disorder.
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In order for a person to be diagnosed with the disorder, they have to show a “significant issue with functioning” or one of the following symptoms. Either they are preoccupied or obsessed with internet games, at least one failed attempt to stop to cut back on playing games, or a loss of interest in other life activities. In addition, they also lie to others about game usage, use gaming as an escape to relieve anxiety or guilt and have lost real-life relationships because of their continued gaming use.
Health experts also agree that gaming addiction has become a worldwide phenomenon, even though it might seem like an uncommon one. In countries such as the U.S., Canada, the United Kingdom and Germany, 1 in 3 internet users have reported at least one symptom of internet gaming disorder.
As far as treatment is concerned, health experts are still trying to figure out the basics.
“There really hasn’t been a good study of what kind of treatment works,” explains Dr. Andrew Saxon, professor of psychiatry and behavioral science at University of Washington’s School of Medicine in Seattle and chair of the APA’s Council on Addiction Psychiatry, according to the Los Angeles Times. “We’re in the realm of semi-experts giving recommendations. Gaming disorder does seem to respond to psychotherapy, and counseling can be quite effective.”
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Oftentimes, many gamers think there is nothing wrong with their gaming addiction, simply because there is a lack of insight to the problem. But at the same time, many people who are addicted also show signs of depression, anxiety, and ADHD. Psychiatrists have also been drawing the same connections of online gaming to activities that bring pleasurable but unavoidable behaviors like eating, shopping, and alcohol and substance abuse.