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An Escape from Reality or Escape from Liability? Video Game Addiction Could Lead to Suicide
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An Escape from Reality or Escape from Liability? Video Game Addiction Could Lead to Suicide

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photo: flickr.com

WASHINGTON, DC – June 19, 2018

The World Health Organization made a statement correcting the list of the revised International Classification of Diseases.

The new list now includes addiction to video-games playing.

WHO said classifying “gaming disorder” as a separate addiction will help governments, families, and healthcare workers be more vigilant and prepared to identify the risks.

Dr. Shekhar Saxena, director of WHO’s department for mental health and substance abuse, agreed with the WHO's decision and added that there is growing demand for treatment in many parts of the world.

In addition, a spokeswoman for the British Psychological Society Dr. Joan Harvey warned about circumstances might cause very great concern to parents.

“People need to understand this doesn’t mean every child who spends hours in their room playing games is an addict; otherwise medics are going to be flooded with requests for help,” she said.

Others agreed and welcomed with WHO’s new classification, calling it as a big problem.

“We come across parents who are distraught, not only because they’re seeing their child drop out of school, but because they’re seeing an entire family structure fall apart,” said Dr. Henrietta Bowden-Jones, a spokeswoman for behavioral addictions at Britain’s Royal College of Psychiatrists. She was not connected to the WHO’s decision.

Bowden-Jones said gaming addictions were usually best treated with psychological therapies but that some medicines might also work.

THE AMERICAN PSYCHIATRIC ASSOCIATION DISAGREES

Addiction is a serious health condition and only a very small minority of people would be diagnosed with "gaming disorder."

Some experts said that cases of the condition are still very rare, and just 3% might qualify for an acute diagnosis of internet gaming disorder.

The American Psychiatric Association has not yet deemed gaming disorder to be a new mental health problem.

“Our studies suggest that when these individuals are engrossed in Internet games, certain pathways in their brains are triggered in the same direct and intense way that a drug addict’s brain is affected by a particular substance,” the association said in that statement. “The gaming prompts a neurological response that influences feelings of pleasure and reward, and the result, in the extreme, is manifested as addictive behavior.”

The Society for Media Psychology and Technology, a division of the American Psychological Association, is equally concerned, interpreting the WHO's decision to be more a product of moral panic than science. They say WHO's decision is more associated with "…social processes that tend to disparage certain elements of society including new technology and can result in pressure on scholars and scientific bodies to confirm pre-existing social concerns about new technology."

Dr. Mark Griffiths, an English psychologist, focusing in the field of behavioral addictions for 30 years, believes the new classification would help legitimize the problem and strengthen treatment strategies.

“Video gaming is like a non-financial kind of gambling from a psychological point of view,” said Griffiths. “Gamblers use money as a way of keeping score whereas gamers use points.”

He also guessed that the gamers would likely have other underlying problems, like depression, bipolar disorder or autism.

Griffiths said playing video games, for the vast majority of people, is more about entertainment and novelty, for example, in the case of “Pokémon Go.”

“You have these short, obsessive bursts and yes, people are playing a lot, but it’s not an addiction,” he said.

ABOUT THE WHO's OPINION

Healthcare in the United States has long been a hotly debated topic - yet, when it comes to mental health care, the conversation quickly goes quiet.

According to the WHO, parents and friends of video game lovers should still be mindful of a potentially harmful problem.

“If (video games) are interfering with the expected functions of the person — whether it is studied, whether it’s socialization, whether it’s work — then you need to be cautious and perhaps seek help,” said a WHO's spokesman.

To some extent, video-game addiction could be a reflection of people’s growing dependence on technology. Today most people interact with their phones more than with their loved ones.

According to report from Common Sense Media, a San Francisco-based organization that examines the impact of technology and media on families, not only kids are becoming addicted to screen — parents with children between the ages of 8 and 18 spend more than 9 hours a day with screen media.

As “gaming disorders” go, they might involve not only several mental problems, like depression, bipolar disorder or autism, but also might have serious consequences like suicide.

Suicide is a growing problem in the United States. According to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, suicide rates have increased by 30% across the country since 1999.

In fact, according to the CDC, nearly 45,000 people died as a result of suicide in 2017 alone, and what's all the more troubling is that in many of those cases the individuals had not been previously diagnosed with a mental health condition.

A number of speakers identified social media and Internet as a challenge. It now might also include a video-game.

With mental health concerns finding themselves at the forefront of numerous social debates, it has become evident that this is a crisis that can no longer be put on the back burner by elected officials and policymakers.

IT DOES NOT MAKE ANY SENSE MEDICALLY

Addiction is a chronic disease of brain reward, motivation, memory, and related circuitry. There are parts of the brain that release hormones that make us feel good in certain cases, like a shot of liquor or drugs.

In fact, the arguments against including gaming disorder as an official addiction don’t tend to suggest that the compulsion can't be dangerous and persistent. But some medical doctors say that  “addiction” is too loaded a term, given the fact that many gaming “addicts” are children and adolescents.

Here are the behaviors which could be considered the characteristics of “gaming addiction”:

Impaired control over the onset, frequency, intensity, duration, termination, or context of gaming

Increasing priority is given to gaming to the extent that gaming takes precedence over other life interests and daily activities

The continuation or escalation of gaming despite the occurrence of negative consequences.

Author: USA Really