Video game addiction: A new diagnosis? by Lindsey Tanner
Video game addiction as the latest psychiatric disorder? That’s what the American Medical Association is debating this week, with a vote as early as next week.
Video game makers scoff at the notion that their products can cause a psychiatric disorder.
And tobacco makers scoff at the notion that cigarettes are addictive and/or cause cancer. No information in this statement, pro or con.
Even some mental health experts say labeling the habit a formal addiction is going too far.
There’s slightly more information in this statement. “There exists a set E of mental health experts such that two or more elements of set E assert that calling a ‘habit’ a ‘formal addiction” is ‘going too far.'” It still isn’t really saying much, other than “there is debate.”
But there certainly is a debate when you begin to try and identify the point at which any habit becomes an addiction.
Joyce Protopapas of Frisco, Texas, said her 17-year-old son, Michael, was a video addict. Over nearly two years, video and Internet games transformed him from an outgoing, academically gifted teen into a reclusive manipulator who flunked two 10th grade classes and spent several hours day and night playing a popular online video game called World of Warcraft.
Read the rest of the behaviors that her son descended into, and ask yourself if it sounds addictive or simply “a habit.” Brushing my teeth twice a day is a habit. Threatening your parents with physical violence when they try to pull the plug to the Internet seems a bit more extreme.
Dr. Michael Brody, head of a TV and media committee at the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry … praised the AMA council for bringing attention to the problem, but said excessive video-game playing could be a symptom for other things, such as depression or social anxieties that already have their own diagnoses.
It is tough to separate these things out, and there certainly is a complex interplay of factors when someone tosses their life out the window for any reason. Clearly many drug and alcohol addicts are predisposed to those addictions due to other conditions, such as depression or social anxieties. And yet we don’t suggest that a meth addict isn’t actually addicted to meth because they were already depressed before they used for the first time.
For my money, I’m absolutely convinced that there is a point at which certain individuals can become as addicted to gaming (especially online gaming) as someone can be to pornography or drugs. It can become so consuming that they can’t let go of it, and they may sacrifice significant successes in their real life in exchange for imaginary successes in a virtual world.
I won’t suggest for a minute that the simple act of playing online too much constitutes addiction. But i do believe that there exists a threshold beyond which the behavior clearly becomes an addiction.
What do you think?