DSM-V Will Avoid Videogame Addiction

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


  • By traci, February 28, 2011 @ 4:16 pm

    If there is no such thing as game addiction then I have no idea what you would call what my nephew has. He is 24 and cannot hold a conversation unless it is about games or characters. I never knew how bad it was until last night. My nephew is staying with my mother because his father does not want to deal with him. He just got out of the army (FYI -he was demoted for playing video games while working) and needed a place to live. While in the army he had no expenses and saved no money – he spent it all on games.

    Well last night my mother told me that she arrived home from work this past Friday to a horrible noise. It was an animal in pain. She asked my nephew how long it was going on and he said – Oh awhile. He then went out to check and screamed, “Grandma, there is a dog in the backyard and your dogs are killing it!” Her dogs are 30-50 pounds and this poor poodle had no chance. He was listening to the screams and yelping and did nothing because he wanted to play videos games. I am amazed and very worried about him now. He has no ambition, nothing. His father put a Nintendo game controller in his hand from the time he could sit up. My sister passed away in ’05 but before that – she got him to do his homework and school work but often had to keep him home from school to do it. This was not helpful. I am meeting with my mother tonight and we have to figure out what to do with him – about it – something.

  • By Ziad Mahmood, July 14, 2012 @ 11:46 pm

    John Rice,
    I disagree with you, and I speak from my personal experience. I would say I am a Video Game “Addict”, now why would I call myself an addict? Well I’ll get to that in a bit, but I would like to start with where it all began, and my problem is rooted deep within me. I started playing video games excessively when I was 10 (In fact, I still play the same game I started playing 10 years ago, it’s called Runescape if you are curious.) Since the start of this behavior, certain changes were noticed in me by me and others. I’ll list them for you, and these are changes that developed then, and have continued to affect me now: 1. Drastic weight gain, I was a kid, meant to be outside and active with friends. Video Games changed that, I am 200 pounds now. 2. Grades, My teachers always used to say I was a very bright child, later on the words became “Ziad has a lot of potential…”… well 1st grade and onwards my grades started to decline. They went from A’s to B’s in middle-school (Parents played an active role) to C’s in high-school (Parents stopped playing *AS* active a role), and now in 3rd semester of college I have had to take a medical leave or receive an F in all 5 of the courses I took (No parental support/supervision), notice a trend? I do. 3. Depression, this is actually a more recent symptom I’ve had and was caused by the *F* warranting medical leave, before that I was rebellious and didn’t really care that I was getting C’s, it was perfectly acceptable to me as long as I kept playing my games, anyways, towards the end of April, I was feeling pretty low, suicidal to be frank, and if my friend’s hadn’t come to my rescue…well I’m going to leave it at that. 4. Expense, I have probably spent over $1000 of my Dad’s money on the game, and this only started about two years ago when I joined the university and was given a debit card.
    Other things that come to mind are; sleep deprivation; I spent about 12 hours playing during this last semester of college, ate 1 meal a day, gave my friends some time, they had to come and get me though, and slept the remaining few hours. Along with that, I probably showered once every 3 days during this time and only went to the bathroom when I could not hold it in any longer. Later into the semester came stress because of the realization that the game was affecting me severely. I am pretty sure I have Carpal Tunnel Syndrome; I did some calculation and out of those 10 years of my life much more than 365 Real Time Days have been spent on that game, equivalent to three years of 8-hour workdays. I already mentioned that I only ate once a day; I don’t actually mind this as I did lose some weight.
    Now, what makes me an addict besides all that? Well, this really is a simple question, and it really does have a simple answer. Take an alcoholic for example, if you put alcohol in front of an alcoholic, what are they going to do? Drink it. If you put a cigarette in front of a smoker, what are they going to do? Smoke it. If you put a computer game in front of a Video Game Addict, what are they going to do? Play it. Thankfully, there are some areas of my life that Video Gaming did not affect, and that has been my ability to socialize with people, I make friend’s easily, and am in no way socially awkward. I have always had a kind personality, so video games haven’t made me violent, this response has been written satirically though, and that has been done consciously.
    Anyways, after 10 years and the “F” status, I realized I was actually in some deep shit, and this occurred during the end of April, when I was suicidal, broke down, and confessed my position to my parents. My friend’s also came to my rescue as my parents were/are on a different continent entirely. I made the decision then to stop playing video games cold turkey, and started seeing a university counselor all in May. This will be important in a bit, but I have been a cigarette smoker for 5 years (from the age of 15, I am now 20.) My father asked a 35 year old friend of his for advice on this “condition” and when he found out my dad was going to send me back to Pakistan (where I am originally from), his reaction was “no way in hell” and he has kept me at his house for this summer still here in America.
    Since coming and living with him and his family from the 15th of May, some changes have occurred in me, but when I arrived I was depressed and quiet, this was mostly out of shame and embarrassment, because of my fuck up, I was going to live with a friend of my dads who I didn’t know at all. Well it happened, and some decisions were made on what my goals were, and how I was going to meet them. Together, we decided that it would be in my best interest to take some summer courses at a community college to make up for lost time (the expectations were that I get A’s in both courses), I decided I wanted to lose weight, this lead to me quitting cigarette’s on May 27th cold turkey after I realized how much it had affected my endurance. I was also responsible of doing my own laundry, making my bed, cleaning my bathroom; basically things that I had neglected to do because of my addiction. During this time I had still not played any computer games so in a sense I was cured – for the time being. Well, everything went well, except of course the gaming. On June 18th I relapsed into playing my computer game, I believe the reason was because my dad’s friend left on a business trip, and even though he never monitored what I did on the computer, I felt liberated and fell back into my old habit. Thankfully, the same did not happen to my smoking, or my desire to lose weight, or my hygiene for that matter. However, sleep deprivation did occur, as did its effects on my grades in summer 1 resulting in final grade of an A and C. The fact that I relapsed into playing video games rather than smoking is a sign to me that video games can indeed be an addiction, and skeptics need to realize that just because there is a lack of chemical dependency involved does not mean that something is not an addiction.

    Regards, Ziad Mahmood

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