Many people we know exhibit the signs everyday: ignoring their friends and family, while burrowed in their rooms for hours, even days; rejecting the shower only to surface for minimal food and water. Their focus is video games and it controls their life.
Research has proven that video games can be almost as powerfully addictive as drugs and alcohol to kids. Addiction has been defined as "A primary, chronic disease, characterized by impaired control over the use of a psychoactive substance and/or behavior. Clinically, the manifestations occur along biological, psychological, sociological and spiritual dimensions."
Parents supported by the research and lead of doctorâ€™s now seek to have the addictive video game behavior officially classified as a psychiatric disorder. The result would raise its awareness and enable sufferers to get insurance coverage for treatment.
Lobbyists are preparing for the American Medical Associationâ€™s annual policy meeting, where they will petition to have the disorder included in a widely used mental illness manual created and published by the American Psychiatric Association.
Any attempt at inclusion will be accompanied by heated debate. On the other side it will be highly opposed by video game makers who reject any idea that their games cause psychiatric disorders. Many health experts also state that it is going to far to label it as a disorder.
On Line Gamers Anonymous
Up to 90 percent of American kids play video games and research indicates as many as 15 percent of them, which is over 5 million kids, may be addicted.
On Line Gamers Anonymous is a support group that has numerous postings with addicted gamers seeking help. The site was created by Liz Woolley, of Harrisburg, Pa. after her 21 year old sign shot himself while playing an online game in 2001.
Postings on the website come from adults and children, mostly men, who say video game addiction cost them jobs, family lives and self-esteem.
Dr. Karen Pierce, a psychiatrist at Chicago's Children's Memorial Hospital, said she sees at least two children a week who play video games excessively.
"I saw somebody this week who hasn't been to bed, hasn't showered ... because of video games," she said. "He is really a mess." She said she treats it like any addiction and creating a separate diagnosis is unnecessary.
Other Causes Of Excessive Playing
Dr. Michael Brody, head of a TV and media committee at the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry agreed that excessive video gaming needs attention, however stopped short of calling it a disorder. He praised the AMA council for bringing attention to the problem, but said excessive video-game playing could be a symptom for other things, such as depression or social anxieties that already have their own diagnoses.
"You could make lots of behavioral things into addictions. Why stop at video gaming?" Brody asked. Why not Blackberries, cell phones, or other irritating habits, he said.