Addicted to gaming: internet gaming disorder

Are your children addicted to gaming? There is a growing movement in the mental health community to include internet gaming disorder as an official disease.

The World Health Organization introduced a proposal in January of 2018 to include “Gaming Disorder” into the new list of diagnosable diseases. This proposal has some professionals concerned. Is the person with the addiction struggling with “Gaming Disorder” or does the individual have a proclivity towards having an addictive behavior?

What is gaming disorder?

According to the draft document it states gaming disorder is a “persistent or recurrent behavior so severe that is takes precedence over other life interests.” In essence, if a person is playing games instead of being involved in other activities such as: eating, sleeping, personal hygiene, relationships, work or school, social interactions and even intimacy.

There have been recorded instances in Asia where a person actually passed away while gaming over the course of three days. He was in an internet cafe and those also in the cafe were unaware that he had passed away. A worker found the deceased person and called authorities. The authorities reported that when they arrived and were moving the body, others in the cafe kept playing games and behaved as though nothing was wrong. They were surprised at the lack of response by those in the cafe.

Gamers want you to be addicted

Gaming creates addiction in the way that it is structured. This is important to understand. People who create games online want to create an emotional response for their customers. The emotional responses are meant to challenge the player and to reward them only after certain tasks are completed successfully. They make the tasks difficult enough to require constant playing but not so difficult that the player gives up. It is a delicate balance between working toward a reward and getting some reward before the individual feels like quitting. If a game is too difficult and no one can win, no one wants to play. If the game gives too many rewards too easily, the game is boring and the individual does not want to play. It is a constant balance for game makers.

This cycle does create some dependence on the individual after a while. They feel they need to win the next item or go to the next level. There is satisfaction when a reward is given, even though the reward is often nonconsequential in real life.

Game creators have also learned to provide variations of rewards within the game in order to provide a sense of accomplishment for the player.

Take for example the popular game, Candy Crush. Candy crush has multiple levels of difficulty (challenge) and provides various rewards to complete the levels. It also provides a ranking system with other players to help the individual feel like they are part of a community and also emphasizes that it is a competition. Rewards are given for playing the game every day and sometimes they offer free rewards to keep an individual engaged.

This psychology in creating games can create addictive behaviors. But is it a person addicted to gaming or is it really a person with addictive tendencies needing to address the problem?

Gaming Disorder or Addiction Problem

The question then becomes what happens after someone is treated and overcomes gaming disorder. Would that person be from other addictive behaviors? Would that person then transfer the addictive behaviors to something else? Further research and study needs to be done to clarify this.

Despite the name that it is called, children are more suseptible to addictive behaviors with electronic games and parents should beware. If your child is unable to function without games or if they refuse to do other things except gaming, you need to take action and make some corrections. Some parents have been outraged to the point of destroying their child’s gaming system. I do not recommend this. It only creates animosity between you and your child, destroys an expensive piece of hardware (that you probably paid for), and teaches your child that acting out irrationally is acceptible as an adult.

How to help a child with gaming disorder

  1. Limit time a child can play on their electronics. (For example: 30 minutes, 1 hour a day or week)
  2. Set a specific time and structure for game play. (For example: 5:00 pm but only if chores and homework are finished)
  3. Find alternative activities that are stimulating for your child to do. You may have to structure an activity.
  4. Be consistent with the new schedule. Be prepared for tantrum behaviors. They will subside over time.

It is still unclear if Gaming Disorder will be included in the Internation Code of Diseases (ICD), regardless, children need structure around the use of technology and parents.

Does your child struggle with an addiction to playing video games? Do you have problems establishing rules? Let us know. We would love to help.

Siope Kinikini

I’m a dad. I enjoy being a dad. I like things to do things that are challenging as well. I’m especially fond of mint-chocolate chip ice cream.

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