Being hooked on video games isn’t necessarily an addiction — here’s why

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    People hooked on video games might suffer from “internet gaming disorder.” However, it might not be a real addiction. Gaming may instead be a distraction from other aspects of life, a study suggests.

Too much of a good thing can be bad for us.

While video games can be great for bonding with other people you’re playing with, and also improve your skills in coordination, problem-solving, and memory, some people become completely hooked on gaming, and rarely do anything else.

In the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, or DSM-5, an internet gaming disorder is listed as a “condition of further study,” meaning it has the potential to be a diagnosable disorder, but more research is needed.

To be diagnosed with internet gaming disorder, someone must show five out of the following nine signs:

    Preoccupation or obsession with games. Withdrawal symptoms when not playing. A build up of tolerance so more time is needed to play games for satisfaction. Attempts to stop playing have failed. No interest in other activities. Continued overuse even though negative impacts are understood. Lying about time spent gaming. Using games as a way of relieving anxiety or guilt. Careers, relationships, or opportunities being jeopardised because of games.

It might not be possible to be addicted.

According to a new study from Cardiff University, it may not be actually possible to be addicted to video games – at least not in the way we currently understand what “addiction” means.

The researchers asked 2,316 people over 18 years old who regularly play games online to fill out a questionnaire about their health and lifestyle. Only nine of the participants fit the criteria for a internet gaming disorder. When they were questioned again six months later, none of them met the requirements for the diagnosis.

Three participants in total fulfilled three of the internet gaming disorder criteria after six months, but none of them reported being distressed about their habit.

“We didn’t see a large number of people with clinical problems,” said social and environmental psychology researcher at Cardiff University Netta Weinstein. “The study’s results suggest that it’s not clear how many resources should go to gaming addiction, compared to other addictions like drugs.”

Video games can be a temporary distraction.

Further analysis showed that people hooked on gaming might be unhappy with other areas of their life, and so they use gaming as a temporary distraction.

Last year, a large study conducted by Oxford University found that video games are not as addictive as gambling.

Researchers surveyed 19,000 men and women from the UK, the US, Canada, and Germany, over half of whom said they had played internet games recently.

Between 2% and 3% reported five or more of the symptoms for internet gaming disorder, and about 0.5% said they had feelings of “significant distress” about not being able to curb their habit.

When compared to findings from the British Gambling Prevalence Survey, this is lower, with 2.6% of people aged 18 to 24 and 1% of adults in the general population saying they had experienced symptoms of a gambling disorder.

“Internet games are currently one of the most popular leisure activities, but we can’t leap to conclusions and assume that if 160 million Americans play them, one million of them might be addicted,” said Andrew Przybylski, lead author of the study.

“The study did not find a clear link between potential addiction and negative effects on health, however, more research grounded in open and robust scientific practices is needed to learn if games are truly as addictive as many fear. If clear evidence does emerge, this would have huge clinical significance as treatments for addicted gamers would vie with a range of serious psychiatric disorders in the current climate of limited health service resources.”