Addiction to video games – truth or just an idea?

A recent study claims that 8.5% of young video game players in the country could be really addicted video games, to the point of it becoming a mental and physical problem.

Apparently, these kids are not just playing a lot of video games; they are actively slipping from social life, scoring badly at school etc.

Douglas A. gentile conducted this study. He is a development psychologist and also an assistant professor at the Iowa University in Ames. He said that the research was the first of its kind because it used a nationally reaching sample of young children to adolescents.

He said that the large number of children that suffer from this problem is the single most worrying factor for him because these kids might not be able to stop this all by themselves. His study has been included in the May edition of Psychological science.

Although, experts often do not agree on this topic and many are of the opinion that it really does not exist. The manual that lists all the known psychiatric diseases, the American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental disorders, does not contain this as s disorder yet. The next publication is due in the year 2012.

Gentile says that the situation is like it was with Alcoholism about 40 years ago. It took many years of research and observation to convince people that it was a definite problem.

Gentile was himself full of disbelief when he started the research, because for it to be an addiction, it has to do some kind of functional damage to one or more aspects of the individual’s life. He said he was surprised to see that the data showed that this was indeed harming kids.

This study was conducted with 1,178 children from the US. The age range for the study was from 8 years to 18 years. It was conducted by Harris interactive who are probably best known for their Harris poll.  This poll included approximately 100 children from each age group and it was conducted in the January 2007.

The children were asked to fill in survey questions that were devised to test their attachment and addiction to video games. There were questions that asked them if they had ever lied about how much they play to their family and/or friends; if they try to escape from problems and times of feeling bad, by playing video games; etc.

Gentile used criterion used to measure gambling addiction to measure the level of pathological gaming in these children. The classification was based on 11 criterion and children were deemed pathological if they exhibited 6 or more of these.

These children played games for a longer time, got worse grades at school and were more predisposed to having a hard time paying attention when compared to the other group of children. Physical problems like wrist and hand pain are also common due to the excessive playing of video games.
As compared to non-pathological gamers, pathological gamers were shown to be more than twice as likely to be diagnosed with attention deficit disorder. The ratio found is 11% to 25% respectively. They are also shown as more likely to have been in a physical fight over the past year, this time 24% to 12%, for pathological and non-pathological gamers respectively.

Cheryl K. Olson believes that although it does emphasize the need for parents to talk to their children regarding this and talk to them about rules. However, she is also skeptical about the ability of an 8 year old to properly complete an online survey without any help.

Cheryl is the co-director and co-founder of the Center of Medical Health and Media at Massachusetts General Hospital. She also questioned the effectiveness of the adapting a gambling questionnaire for this purpose. She contrasts the gravity of a small lie to one’s mother about video game playtime and a husband lying to his wife about gambling.

Gentile is also the director of research at the national institute of Media and Family and according to him; parents should always follow their gut feeling regarding a suspected problem with the child.
If a child’s social skills deteriorate and he starts skipping school to play video games, there are signals of a compulsive behavior, which may be the signs of a mental illness.

Finding this kind of addiction it usually just skimming the surface according to Dr. Michael Brody, a privately practicing psychiatrist in Potomac, M.D., and the chairman of the media committee of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry.

He is of the opinion that such compulsive behavior may be coming from a deep-set sense of fear, insecurity depression and anxiety in the child. He thinks that putting a tag like addiction is oversimplifying it.