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Doctors discuss gaming addictions

Dr. Ryan Edwards

In June 2018, the World Health Organization released its 11th International Classification of Diseases (ICD) book. For the first time, gaming addiction will be listed as a mental health condition. The book describes it as a pattern of persistent or recurrent gaming behavior so severe that it takes “precedence over other life interests.” The classification suggest that abnormal gaming behavior should be in evidence over a period of a year for a diagnosis to be assigned but added that the period might be shortened if symptoms are severe. Symptoms include impaired control over gaming (frequency, intensity, duration), increased priority given to gaming, and continuation or escalation of gaming despite negative consequences.

“Everybody has been seeing this coming for a long time,” said Dr. Ken Zoucha, Addiction Division Director at UNMC. “It doesn’t surprise me at all. I think this gaming thing is going to end up also being related to electronic devices, the internet, and social media. Everybody can see this coming, and we are watching people who are spending hours and hours all night on the internet.”

UNMC Child and Adolescent Psychiatrist Dr. Ryan Edwards said gaming addiction is still a controversial diagnosis, but parents should still make sure their children aren’t spending too much time on gaming.

‘If parents have concerns that their children are dropping friends or dropping activities and instead playing video game too much,” Dr. Edwards said. “They should be evaluated to see if there are no other metal health disorders contributing. Often times, kids who come in for complaints of internet addiction often times have underlying symptoms of anxiety or depression. It’s rarely just an internet gaming addiction. If we see an internet gaming addiction, we make sure there are not other mental health concerns.”

According to the World Health Organization, the inclusion of gaming disorder will allow treatment programs to be developed for people dealing with the addiction.

Dr. Zoucha said despite the increased discussion and treatment for gaming addictions, people should still be able to play games.

“People enjoy games and they still go to work, take care of their family, and live their lives constructively,” Dr. Zoucha said. “But when we see symptoms affecting lives, we should get those people help.”

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