The World Health Organization now recognises an addiction to playing video games as a real mental health condition, terming it ‘gaming disorder’.
Addiction is a chronic disease of brain reward, motivation, memory, and related circuitry and doesn’t have to involve drugs. Any substance or activity that starts to trigger your brain’s reward centres (the bits that release hormones that make us feel good) and makes you pathologically pursue relief can be addictive.
Video games reflect technological evolution at an unprecedented rate. Their appeal may increase exponentially, and what we see today is likely just the beginning of a new age of compulsive play. The attractiveness of video games is primarily due to the brilliance of designers and their stunning technology. However, while video games are works of immense achievement, they can also cause harm.
Research on video game addiction goes back more than twenty years when digital games were not nearly as appealing and realistic as they are today. However, the results still pointed in the same direction, highlighting a growing risk to our children.
It is possible to have compulsive behaviour that negatively impacts your life without destroying or ending it. However, in many cases, you could end up sacrificing relationships, healthy eating, hygiene, and exercise, all because you can’t pull yourself away from a game. If you consistently feel like you have no control over your gaming or you’ve felt the need to stop or lie about it, then you may be dealing with an addiction.
According to Dr Vladimir Poznyak of WHO, there are three major criteria required to diagnosis gaming disorder. They are:
- Gaming takes precedence over other activities, “to the extent that other activities are taken to the periphery”.
- Video games are still played despite adverse consequences, i.e. “impaired control of these behaviours”.
- Compulsive gaming leads to significant strain on personal, family, social, educational, or occupational functioning, affecting relationships and health.
Preferably you want to identify an addiction before these problems occur. To do so, you could ask yourself?
– Have you ever felt you should cut down on your gaming?
– Have people annoyed you by criticising your gaming?
– Have you ever felt bad or guilty about your gaming?
– Are video games usually the first thing you think about in the morning when you wake up?
Ultimately, people become dependent on video games for the same reason that they become dependent on any other problematic behaviour such as gambling or using recreational drugs.
Regardless of age, attempting to escape problems in our lives, by doing things that seem pleasurable or easier to understand, can be a potent lure for people in need.
Video gaming can be a good or a bad thing, depending on how you do it. However, you should never let it replace human interactions or reality. When playing, keep track of your mood and how the gaming may be affecting the rest of your life. Check now and then to ensure that you are the one holding the controller and not the video game.
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