Online and digital games can become more than idle pastimes. Here’s how to know if you or a loved one may be addicted.
The World Health Organization (WHO) recently recognized gaming addiction as a mental health condition called “gaming disorder.” Until the WHO made this announcement, diagnoses for online or digital gaming addiction remained speculative. The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5), published in 2013, cited internet gaming addiction as an area that required further study. At that time, the only behavioral, game-related addiction recognized in the DSM-5 was gambling.
Signs of Trouble
The DSM-5 states that gaming must cause “significant impairment or distress” to a person’s life. Other symptoms of gaming disorder may include:
- an obsession with gaming
- having withdrawal symptoms, such as anxiety or irritability, when unable to play online games
- unable to quit or reduce time spent playing online games
- losing interest in other activities
- using gaming to cope with negative feelings
- risking relationships, a job, or schoolwork due to gaming
Screening Out Unhealthy Habits
Parents can get help children avoid gaming addiction by establishing device usage rules early. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends parents consistently monitor children’s screen time, making sure their children are still physically active and get enough sleep. A little bit of gaming is OK, but too much can lead to physical and mental health problems, which may include addiction.
Follow these tips from The Nemours Foundation to limit your child’s screen time.
- Give them choices. Encourage children to play with screen-free options. Offer them books, toys, board games, and puzzles as alternatives to watching TV or using the computer.
- Bedrooms are off-limits. Keep TVs, computers, and phones, if possible, out of your child’s bedroom. If keeping a cellphone out of the bedroom isn’t feasible, have your child put it away before going to bed.
- Make it a privilege, not a right. Screen time can be a reward for doing chores or finishing homework.
- Set a good example. Make sure your own screen time is limited as well.
- Spend screen time together. Watch movies or play video games as a family, choosing options that are educational as well as entertaining.
Just a Game?
The WHO notes that most people are able to engage in online or digital gaming without being addicted, and a March 2017 study published in the American Journal of Psychiatry found that just 0.3 to 1 percent of the general population could potentially be diagnosed with an internet gaming disorder.
Nevertheless, given the prominence technology has taken in our lives, it’s important to recognize the signs of addiction—and seek help for those impacted.
Think you may have a gaming addiction? Talk with your primary care physician. If you need one, visit summithealthcare.net/find-a-doctor.