There are very few windmills I’ve charged at on this blog over the years, but one notion I have battled is the idea of video game “addiction.” I prefer the Council on Science and Public Health’s term “overuse” for people who spend too much time playing video games, and I simply do not believe it warrants psychological treatment in and of itself. There may be other issues a heavy gamer needs addressing, psychologically, but not solely video game overuse. That’s my position based on years of engagement with others and consumption of what literature there is on the subject.
In the past, I’ve applauded when the AMA called for more research on the issue before formally deciding to declare video game addiction diagnosable. I’ve been delighted with researchers’ efforts to distinguish between the “addictive” elements surrounding online gambling and traditional role playing games. Finally, my position piece on the issue, Video Game Addiction: Fact or Fiction, remains popular and is currently first to show up on Google searches for “video game addiction fiction,” and fourth on “video game addiction fact.”
So now, the time approaches for the DSM to be modified. One major development in the issue of video game addiction has been to roll it into a broader category of Internet addiction. Since most games these days are online, this sort of makes sense. Overuse of all types of screen time, though, might challenge the definition a bit. If a child spends too much time playing a game that is not connected to the Internet, could he be diagnosed as addicted to the Internet? You can see the difficulties.
Fortunately, the committee in charge of revisions sees the difficulties, too. News this week indicates that gambling will be included in DSM-V as a behavioral disorder, but Internet addiction will not. It will be relegated to an appendix in order to encourage more research, and possible future inclusion in DSM-VI. Of course with so many years between revisions, the relationships we’ve developed with Internet technology may substantially change by that time. Social networking hardly existed just a few years ago, after all.
So, this is a good thing. I’m glad this blog played a part, however small, in the discussion on video game addictions and the struggle over defining it. The public can comment on the proposed revisions to the DSM here, through April. DSM-V is scheduled to be published in 2012-2013, after field trials have been conducted on new and revised diagnoses.
Gever, J. (2010, February 10). DSM-V draft promises big changes in some psychiatric diagnoses. [Online.] Available: http://www.medpagetoday.com/Psychiatry/GeneralPsychiatry/18399