The past few months, I have been hearing more and more from concerned parents, teachers and peer mentors about the concept of video and computer game addiction. It seems that there are a growing number of young people, especially males, who have taken "gaming" to an extreme level.
Video game addiction, or overuse, was not included in an initial draft of the 2013 revision to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM), a book that provides a standard and common language for mental health professionals to use when classifying mental health disorders. The American Psychiatric Association may include the addiction in the revision, but a final decision has not been made.
If the American Psychiatric Association has not yet acknowledged video game addiction, then does that mean it does not exist? If you were to ask parents of children who spend hours upon hours playing video games, or spouses who claim their relationship is strained because of gaming, the answer would most definitely be that video game addiction is real.
The following are some symptoms of someone with a potential video game addiction:
- Playing for hours and hours without being aware of the time spent.
- Lying about the amount of time spent on gaming.
- Talking about gaming as though it is a part of real life.
- Becoming panicked, hostile or angry if the games are removed or restricted.
- Having thoughts about gaming while performing daily tasks like school work or job-related tasks.
- Changing your behavior in order to game more.
- Having impulsive thoughts about gaming.
One of the most practical ways to avoid gaming addiction is to monitor the amount of time spent playing video games. For adults, this might mean you set a timer or alarm to go off after a designated time; parents can do the same for their children. One 14-year-old writes on WoWdetox.com about his alleged addiction.
"I am 14 and im a freaken addict ... my parents seem to care but never try to kick me off or even try to help. i have 2 lvl 70's one that is full t6 and other full t5. thus i have no life i cant even imagine what i would do if i deleted my toons. I really want to quit but i cant. I mean this [expletive deleted] game is controlling me and i cant stop. i have almost deleted my toons but im afraid i'll just start up another one."
The scary part about this quote is that I could have listed hundreds more with kids saying similar things. I do not want to paint the picture that all video games are bad and that everyone who plays them are going to become addicted. Many people enjoy gaming as a leisure part of their life and have no problem turning the games off. However, there are some who are taking gaming to an extreme. Below are some websites I have found that might be helpful for teens, parents, teachers and peer mentors who are looking for help with video game addiction.
Editor's Note: This story originally ran in December 2010.