Monday, June 25, 2007

Is Video Game Addiction a Psychiatric Disorder?

It’s no big news that people can get addicted to alcohol. Drugs, cigarettes, food: all common addictions. But what about video games? Sure, there are kids (and even adults) who park themselves on the couch with the latest game, and play it for hours on end. But does this constitute an actual addiction? The American Medical Association (AMA) thinks so, and is pushing to classify video game addiction as a psychiatric disorder.

A report issued by the AMA claims that up to 15 per cent of kids who play video games could fall into the addicted classification: this translates to more than five million young ‘ens! Of course we’ve all heard of incidents where children have sat and played video games for hours, failing to eat and drink, some with fatal results. Is addictive video games in fact the cause, or is the reason for the obsessive game-playing much more complex?

Of course video game publishers argue the latter, and, to an extent, I agree with them. The underlying issue could be depression, lethargy, lack of self-worth, or even a pre-disposition for addiction. When you think about it, that addiction could be manifested through pretty much anything in life: Coffee. Shoe shopping. Tanning. Sex. The list goes on and on. Sure, the effects of being addicted to one thing might be more detrimental than to another: you could die from alcohol addiction, whereas the results of a shoe addiction might simply be a depleted bank account and no closet space! But where does one draw the line?

What’s more, if video game addiction is diagnosed as a psychiatric disorder, what will happen? Kids will be popping more pills, and the parent’s insurance will pay for them. This is not the answer.

I used to play games when I was a kid, and even the simplest one could become addictive. In fact, the "addictive" quality is exactly what gives a game its appeal, and thus contributes to its popularity. But on the flip side, until you’ve experienced someone with a serious “addiction” to playing video games, it’s tough to fully understand the situation. And being an ex-smoker myself, I understand the nature of addiction, and how powerful it can be.

Personally, I can’t see how placing the blame on a video game is the answer; in the same manner that I can’t place the blame for a smoking addiction on the variety store that sells cigarettes; or on a fast food restaurant for a food addiction.

Any thoughts?


Anonymous said...

Video games, addictions or just simple fun? With the recent pulling of Manhunt 2 from the shelves due to its violent content, we know that these aren't just for kids anymore. Today's video games have gone far beyond 'pong' and 'pac-man'. Graphics that rival special effects from Hollywood, and HD quality content certainly do have their appeal to all gamers, newbies and hardcore gamers alike. One thing is certain, cigarettes and tanning will certainly kill you in the long run...but video games and sex will not only improve your hand to eye co-ordiantion, but may also take you away to an alternate universe, even if only for a short time.

PheistyBlog said...

I agree with you 110%.

I just posted something about this on my blog, as well.

The sick thing is that everything and anything is becoming an 'illness' worthy of insurance coverage. Personal responsbility has gone by the wayside. I find it strange, because every admitted drug or alcohol addict I've ever talked to is very insistant that they make the choice to be an addict. To me, this new craze of pushing the blame onto 'illness' is only enabling the addict to continue down their path of destruction. Anyone who knows anything about addiction knows that enablers are the worst thing for an addict.

The irony is astounding.

Check out my post if you get the chance.

Anonymous said...

I once saw an epidsode on "Invention" where a guy had an addiction to video games and this was interfering with his relationship with his family and friends. Video game addiction or compulsion may not be classified in the DSM-IV, but it needs to be looked into (as any other addictions)when it interferes with someone's daily life. The DSM-IV defines compulsions as "repetitive behaviors that the person feels driven to perform" and "...are time consuming (take more than an hour a day), or significantly interfere with the person's normal routine, occuption (or academic) functioning, or usual social activities or relationships".
I do agree that video games per se should not be in any other addiction or disorder, there is some underlying reason(s) why a person manifests these traits. In Intervention, the young man had a troubled childhood, and looked at video games in order to remove himself from reality and put him in some sort of fantasy. The scary thing with this young man was that he was playing video games that were extremely violent, and it appeared that his rage for the things that occured in his life was directed towards the video games. I do believe that any addiction, whether it be drugs, shopping, internet, or video games should be looked into seriously as it may indicate a mental health concern.

Mike S. said...

if we want kids to stop playing video games for hours on end we need to provide them with a healthy fun alternative. as it stands when they leave their world of warcraft all they have to look forward to is being bombarded by marketing trying to convince them to buy into the newest fad or telling them they're not good enough untill get get rid of their acne or their curley hair or their outdated cellphones. you cant on one hand treat teenagers as a commodity to drive the economic system and then turn around and criticize them for running away and trying to escape it. here is an idea, stop cutting back on after-school programs, stop turning parks into starbucks and maybe tell kids they are more than just consumers to us.

Lee D. said...

I don’t wish to minimize the tragedy that real addictions cause, but I think that we live in a sad, silly age where every character defect has to be classified as a syndrome. If diverting huge amounts of time and effort into playing video games counts as “addiction” then the same case could be made for golf, cycling, model train collecting, or pretty much any other hobby or pastime that people are slavishly devoted to.

It irritates me, because pigeonholing things as a disease abrogates individuals from taking responsibility for themselves and making better choices. Instead of acknowledging that your child is a little savage because you’re an absentee parent, it’s easier to cop out and say “Oh, it’s not my fault, he has ADHD and he’s addicted to video games!” That angers me.

Furthermore, labeling everything as an addiction trivializes the tragedy of true addictions: alcohol, gambling, whatever, by diluting the meaning of the word. While obsessing over video games may share similar compulsive behaviors, I have trouble biting off the “addiction” label.