Public News Service
SEATTLE – A psychiatrist in Washington State says it’s important that the World Health Organization is recognizing online gaming addiction as a disorder, but more research is needed to fully understand and treat it.
The American Psychiatric Association has yet to recognize gaming disorder, noting that more study of the condition is necessary.
Dr. Andrew Saxon, a professor at the University of Washington who chairs the Council on Addiction Psychiatry, said the WHO’s definition of gaming disorder is associated with other conditions – such as depression, anxiety and attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder.
“So that raises the question of whether people who have depression or anxiety, or some other psychiatric disorder, might be more prone to develop the constellation of signs and symptoms that we’re calling gaming disorder,” he said.
Saxon said people with serious video-game addictions usually are socially isolated as well, but he called it a “chicken or egg” situation. Is time spent on these games keeping a person from interacting with other people? Or does gaming disorder take over someone’s life, leading to isolation? Saxon said it’s likely the World Health Organization is recognizing the disorder because of its high prevalence in Asia, compared with the United States.
Saxon said there have been no rigorous studies of what works to treat gaming addiction, so medical professionals should exercise caution when diagnosing it.
“It’s tough to make a diagnosis as a health-care provider,” he said, “and then say, ‘Oh, well, I don’t really know what to offer you for sure, to treat this condition.’ ”
Saxon said it’s a much trickier addiction than others. For instance, people with alcohol or gambling addict,ions can avoid them more easily and still function in society than people who play games online.
“What we struggle with is,” he said, “it’s hard to tell people, ‘Well, you absolutely can’t go online or do anything which is going to be a trigger for the gaming – even if, for example, they’re just going to look up some information for a school research project.”
He noted that the World Health Organization’s announcement will stimulate more research on this topic, which is a good thing for the field.
WHO info is online at who.int.