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The American Psychiatric Association (APA) has classified video game addiction in Section 3 of the DSM-5 under the diagnosis of "Internet Gaming Disorder". The reason for this is because evidence exists that it can be proposed as a mental health disorder.

General overview

Internet gaming disorder is defined as a compulsive or excessive preoccupation with internet or home based gaming and activities which leads to the interference of normal daily life. It is an "unofficial" diagnosis in the Diagnostic and Statistic Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5), but since there is evidence of psychological and physical effects due to  prolonged and excessive gaming, then further research into this condition needs to be done. Addiction to video games has been included as part of internet gaming disorder.

The disorder has therefore been included in Section 3 of the DSM-5, which makes provision for this disorder to be classified as a sub-type of problematic internet usage until further research has been concluded. Completing certain criteria will then determine whether the diagnosis will be considered as a separate mental health condition. The major issue which needs to be dealt with is whether the condition is caused by gaming itself, or whether it is a secondary cause of another disorder.

Criteria for the diagnosis of the disorder

Of the following criteria, at least 5 need to be present in an individual within a 1 year period. These criteria were set-up by the DSM-5 as a way to try and collect data in order to determine whether Internet Gaming Disorder should be a stand-alone diagnosis or not.

  • Pre-occupation - the patient spends lots of time thinking about video/internet games and even when they are not playing.
  • Tolerance - the patient gets used to playing games so they then start to increase their playing time, they also want to play more graphic games or need to start using more powerful items to achieve the same level of excitement.
  • Withdrawal - the patient can get irritable, angry, restless, moody, sad or anxious when they try to reduce their gaming, attempt to stop playing or when they are in a situation where they are unable to play.
  • The need to reduce or stop - there is a feeling that the patient should reduce the time spent playing games but fin it difficult to do so.
  • Giving up extra-mural activities - patients become disinterested in other activities such as socializing with friends and family because of gaming.
  • Continuing despite problems - patients will continue playing games despite being aware of the possible consequences, such as being late for work or school, reduced sleep, spending a lot money, neglecting responsibilities or arguing with others.
  • To escape adverse emotions - they game to try and escape their everyday problems and to try and reduce emotions such as guilt, anxiety, helplessness or depression.
  • Deceive or cover up gaming- the patient will lie to friends or family about how much time is spent playing or they try to keep friends or family from discovering the amount of time that is spent on gaming.
  • They run the risk of losing relationships or possible career prospects due to excessive gaming.
It is quite clear from the above criteria that Internet Gaming Disorder has a very similar presentation to issues such as nicotine, alcohol, drug, gambling or sexual addiction.

Adverse effects of the disorder

This condition can lead to physical adverse effects on the patient and they include the following:

  • Headaches.
  • Neck and back pain.
  • Palpitations.
  • Fatigue.
  • Poor physical hygiene.
  • Gastro-intestinal and digestive disturbances. 
  • Abnormal or disturbed sleeping patterns.
  • Weight loss or gain.

A more pressing issue is the psychological effects of this disorder and they include the following issues.

  • Anxiety.
  • Depression.
  • Anger management issues.
  • Social isolation and withdrawal.
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