Are Video Game Addictions Real?
Video games and gaming addictions are issues that have had profound effects on our youth. Since technology and recreational gaming became normal features in our daily lives, there have always been those concerned about its impact.
As the world of gaming has grown and changed, the topic of addiction has been hotly debated and questioned. Has video gaming and its impact on younger populations resulted from the move towards massive multiplayer gaming? Or is it reflective of deeper underlying issues impacting the youth?
Gaming has become a popular recreational activity, and roughly 212 million adults in the U.S. play video games.
For those who have been studying gaming addictions these past decades, the evidence for gaming addiction is clear. However, many wonder where we can draw the line between recreation and addiction.
What exactly is a “gaming addiction?” Do video game addictions exist?
When the DSM-V was first published, gaming addiction wasn’t classified as a mental disorder. However, in 2017, the World Health Organization (WHO) took a step forward.
The WHO announced they would include “gaming disorder” in the International Classification of Diseases (ICD). As of May 2019, “gaming disorder” was finally classified as a behavioral addiction in the ICD.
The symptoms of internet gaming disorder include:
- Preoccupation with gaming
- Unsuccessful attempts to quit
- Continuing to game despite the risk of it impacting their life
- Losing interest in previously enjoyed activities
- And more
In one study, “video game addiction” referred to the “problematic use of video games.” This meant that video games ultimately impaired their daily life. Video game addiction is also described as the excessive use of games that brings about social and emotional problems.
Another study conducted by Iowa State University psychologist Dr. Douglas Gentile analyzed “pathological players” according to standards set for gambling addictions.
Dr. Gentile’s study also found that addicted gamers played double the amount of “normal” gameplay. This averaged to roughly 24 hours weekly. As a result of their gameplay habits, the standards for addiction included causing damage to:
- Family life
- Social life
- Mental health
The truth is that there have been a variety of mental and psychological conditions associated with video game addictions. Depression, anxiety, and suicidal ideation are only a few among those reported. Other studies have also found gaming addictions to be positively correlated with neuroticism, and negatively correlated with extraversion and conscientiousness.
One study tried to analyze the predictors of video game addiction. The results found that men are almost three times more likely to fall into the category of addicted gamers. The study found that young men living on their own with poor mental health are at increased risk for gaming addictions.
Dr. Gentile’s study also states that games are compelling because they fulfill the “ABCs” of our needs. This means they bring feelings of Autonomy, Belonging, and Competence to most gamers and players. He also argues that feeling constantly rewarded furthers the desire to continue gaming.
Statistics show that 8.5 percent, or nearly one in every ten gamers, struggle with some form of pathological gameplay. Dr Gentile’s study also showed an interesting relationship between gaming and ADD/ADHD. Those with addictive gaming habits were twice as likely to have been diagnosed with ADD or ADHD.
Much like video games, addictive substances stimulate the reward centers in the brain. Based on developing research, it’s very likely that drug interactions can further reinforce addictive patterns.
Most substance use disorders have well-documented relationships with self-reinforcing behaviors like eating, gambling, sex, and so on. Video game addictions are similar to other behavioral addictions and substance use disorders in that they also have biological dimensions. Substance use disorders and problem video gaming have several risk correlations.
In this study, one of the focuses was how concurrent substance abuse and problem gaming impacted an individual. The study found that concurrent use while playing video games as a hobby is uniquely associated with substance use problems.
Dr. Gentile also draws parallels between substance use and gaming addictions. Over the course of his career, he has examined the risk factors associated with both.
Although video game addiction is not specifically listed in the DSM-V, professionals can still provide effective treatment based on general principles of addiction therapy. The good news is that some facilities are still doing their best to help address the problem. The difficult part of treating gaming addictions stems from how prevalent technology and consoles have become in our lives.
The reality is that different kinds of habits and addictions need different kinds of treatments. While some addictions can be undermined and avoided through abstinence, it’s nearly impossible to avoid technology in its entirety. Most gamers with addictions instead must relearn and rebuild the way they interact with gaming as a whole.
Moving forward, we have to watch the way we help young people struggling with video game addictions. A formal diagnosis and definition in the DSM-V will be significant in treatment. However, until then, we have to be careful.
Mislabelling gamers who don’t have an addiction can be dangerous, especially for younger gamers. Labeling someone an “addict” can ultimately cause more harm than good. This is especially true if they’re still in the process of forming their identities.
In the end, there’s still so much work left to be done to help the gaming community. Gamers with addictions require more compassion and empathy, as well as quality treatment options.
For those struggling with concurrent substance abuse and gaming addictions, we’re here to help. Reach out to us today to start using music as a catalyst for hope and healing.
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