Are video games addictive?

The American Medical Association (AMA) held its annual conference in Chicago this past June. Among the physicians who attended, some believe that children and adults are liable to develop an addiction to video games akin to alcohol addiction or any other substance abuse.

The American Medical Association (AMA) held its annual conference in Chicago this past June. Among the physicians who attended, some believe that children and adults are liable to develop an addiction to video games akin to alcohol addiction or any other substance abuse.

According to these physicians, some gamers become so captivated by video games that they actually abandon other activities and interpersonal relationships, to spend more time playing. This behaviour is typical to addiction, regardless of what the source of the particular addiction is.

A soon-to-be-published British study supports what these AMA physicians are saying. According to this study, among the 7,000 gamers surveyed, close to 12% of them actually met the addiction criteria of the World Health Organization (WHO). This is a considerable proportion!

According to statistics published in 2005 by the Entertainment Software Association (ESA), no less than 70% to 90% of American children play video games. However, overuse seems much higher among children who favour role-playing games they get on the Internet, which is approximately 9% of children.

These are the reasons some physicians would like to see video game overuse classified as a mental disorder. They also believe it should be included in the American Diagnostic and Statistic Manual of Mental Disorders, used by psychiatrists in diagnosing mental illness.

However, the proposal of classifying video games overuse as an addiction was not unanimous. In fact, numerous physicians have contested the interpretation made by their colleagues. According to them, it is not a new mental disorder. They suggested instead that kids who tend to become addicted to video games demonstrate signs of a compulsive personality. According to these physicians, video game overuse would be a symptom rather than an actual mental disorder or illness.

Whether or not video game overuse is a form of mental disorder, it can definitely have detrimental effects on the health and social lives of some gamers. Hence, anyone who relishes this form of entertainment should set reasonable limits, and gauge the amount of time they spend playing.

If you find your child being so taken by video games that he or she starts to abandon friends, eschews social situations, forgets to eat, and always gets to bed really late, it is probably high time you two have a talk! Setting limits on the amount of time your child plays video games is a good way to keep a handle on things. Like in everything else, moderation is key!

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