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The debate over "gaming addiction" continues

August 6, 2012
by Shannon Brys
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Is "gaming addiction" a real disorder?

As part of a CNN series called “Gaming Reality”, a story by John Sutter of CNN ponders the question of whether gaming addiction is a real disorder.  Sutter describes a few young men in South Korea that he had met who had undergone some form of treatment for their obsession with video games. 

The article shows an interview with Dr. Charles O’Brien, who is a professor of psychiatry at the University of Pennsylvania and is the chair of the group working to decide whether disorders such as this one will make the official list in the United States.  Besides internet and gaming addiction, a couple of the other conditions up for consideration are jogging addiction, sex addiction and food addiction. 

He says it has not been determined at this point that gaming addiction is a real disease but they are looking for more evidence.  He says it might be hard to tell because some of these people who are “addicted” to the gaming sites may be suffering from other disorders, such as anxiety, depression, bipolar disorder, etc., and the games may be their way of escaping to deal with their problems.  He says that they will need more concrete evidence and a significant number of similar cases in order to make a decision.

So far, the treatment for people who have extreme obsessions with internet or gaming addiction has been either talk therapy or “virtual-reality” treatment.  The latter is described as the patient being exposed to his video game at first to make him feel as if he is in a calm environment with the sights and sounds he is used to, followed by an uncomfortable image that will create a negative association between the player and the game he couldn’t stop playing.

According to O’Brien, this topic has been researched since the 2000s and he believes that one day it will be added to the DSM as an official disorder.

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