The World Health Organization (WHO) has just created a new category of addiction: the addiction to video games (gaming disorder). It is defined as follows:
“Gaming disorder is characterized by persistent or recurring gaming behavior (“digital gaming” or “video-gaming”), which may be online (on the Internet) or offline, manifested by:
- An alteration of the control of games (e.g. appearance, frequency, intensity, duration, end, context);
- Give more priority to gambling as gambling takes precedence over other life interests and daily activities; and
- The continuation or escalation of the game despite the occurrence of negative consequences.
Behavior is of sufficient severity to result in significant impairment in personal, family, social, educational, professional, or other areas of functioning. The pattern of gambling behavior may be continuous or episodic and recurrent. Gaming behavior and other characteristics are normally evident over a period of at least 12 months for a diagnosis to be made, although the required duration can be shortened if all diagnostic conditions are met and symptoms are severe. ”
If this pathology falls within the framework of addictions, it does not meet the same definition as addiction to alcohol or tobacco. This is indeed what is called a “behavioral” addiction. The main difference with addictions related to toxic substances is that the drinker must definitely stop drinking and the smoker to smoke at the risk of relapse, while the cure of addiction to video games does not involve a total withdrawal, but the ability to return to moderate use considered normal. It is quite obvious that the use of the same word “addiction” for two pathologies as different will not fail to cause much confusion… No one has ever denied that there are pathological uses of video games.
Two reasons to rejoice
The ambition is humanist: to better explore a pathology to better understand it and ultimately better care for it. In many countries, all people in pain can benefit from a refund of their care, or even free care in the dispensaries, it is far from being the same in all countries. With this official recognition, if it is subsequently confirmed by the DSM (The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, which is the reference work published by the American Psychiatric Association, describing and classifying mental disorders), people who feel that they suffer from such a pathology will be able to benefit from psychotherapeutic support, at least in the countries where this offer exists. It will become easier to practice specialized tests such as electroencephalogram and brain MRI, which will help advance research. It is therefore expected a gain of understanding, at least at the level of brain function, with the hope of thus laying the foundations of a more objective psychiatric science.
The risk of abusive diagnoses: confusing the cause and the origin
In real, many of these requests will end up with psychologists or psychiatrists. The risk of the qualifier “addiction to video games” is to forget that such a symptom, as recalled by Unicef, usually originated in a problem that the person can not overcome. A large number of studies conducted over the past two decades suggest that problems with the use of digital tools may arise as a kind of self-medication to escape difficult real-life situations. For example, if someone feels sad or stressed, he is tempted to connect, to escape this sadness or stress, an application that offers immersion and distraction, like an online video game. The consequences are both positive for this person (she feels temporarily better) and negative (the real cause is not necessarily treated). In the long run, adaptive behavior may become habitual unless the underlying problem is solved. The cause of the addiction is in the video game, but its origin is in the difficulty considered insurmountable that led the player to flee in the digital world. The key is to tackle the underlying issues that can lead to harmful digital engagement in order to overcome this problematic behavior. The same work indicates that conversely, a constrained reduction of screen time is only a superficial intervention that is unlikely to achieve its objective.
The risk of abusive treatment
It is likely that this may also result in abusive chemotherapy. Such treatments will indeed be all the more prescribed as the creation of an “addiction to video games“, largely relayed by the media (which had mostly not expected this official recognition to trumpet that he had a) may cause parents to panic and spark a wave of consultation! The danger, of course, is that overworked GPs are tempted to respond to parental anxieties with various forms of medical prescription. And what else could they do?
The risk of reducing teenage suffering on addictive pathology
The creation of a “video games addiction” will not change the mode of care. On the other hand, places of care may change. So far, pathological gamblers have been cared for in multipurpose care centers, such as Psychological Medical Centers (CMPs) and Psycho-Pedagogical Medical Centers (PPCs). But strong the recognition by WHO, centers of addictology may rise to the front line by claiming additional credits. With the risk that a large number of young people not suffering as such from “addiction to video games” according to the definition given by the WHO, find support impossible elsewhere, thereby fueling the idea, with their parents, is an ideal solution.
How can parents control the situation?
Well, to tackle the situation efficiently, parents are provided with digital tools such as FamilyTime Android parental control. With the app, they can not only see what games their kids play but can also analyze the time they spend on these games with the information of the games played such as version and date of installation. If for any reason, you find the game inappropriate for kids, they can always block those from the same app you installed. Not all parental apps offer these features but the advanced app FamilyTime provides all these with additional parental controls for mobile monitoring, web monitoring and location tracking, etc.