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Any activity which is performed in excess or is impulsive in nature and which interferes with an individual's work or household duties is regarded as addictive behaviour.

Computer or video games addiction is therefore a real dilemma and can be as destructive as alcohol, illicit drug, gambling and sexual addiction in the sense that it can destroy relationships.

The way that video game addiction can present is as follows:

  • Compulsive or excessive game playing.
  • Mood swings. 
  • Social withdrawal and isolation.
  • Having an impact on one's imagination by diminishing it.
  • The individual focusing on in-game achievements rather than real-life goals and events in their normal life. 

Is it then classified as a mental health condition?

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

As mentioned, this activity can have a profound negative effect on relationships because the affected individual may lie about how much time they spend playing and may also avoid contact with others so as not to cut into their playing time. 

Physical effects can also occur and these include poor physical hygiene, gastrointestinal disturbances, abnormal or disturbed sleeping patterns and weight loss or gain.

What are the criteria to be diagnosed with internet gaming disorder?

  1. Withdrawal - do you feel irritable, restless, angry, moody, anxious or sad when attempting to cut down or stop gaming or when you're not able to play?
  2. Pre-occupation - is a lot of time spent thinking about games even when not playing or planning when you can play next?
  3. Tolerance - do you feel the need to increase your playing time, play more exciting games or use more powerful equipment to get the same amount of excitement you used to get?
  4. Give up other activities - are you not interested in other recreational activities such as hobbies or social activities with family and friends because of gaming?
  5. Reduce/stop - do you feel that you should cut back on the amount of time you spend playing games but are unable to?
  6. Continue despite problems - do you carry on playing games even though you are aware of negative consequences, such as not getting enough sleep, being late to school/work, spending too much money, having arguments with others or neglecting important duties?
  7. Escape adverse moods - do you game to escape from or forget about personal problems or to relieve feelings such as anxiety, guilt, depression or helplessness?
  8. Deceive/cover up - do you lie to your family or friends about how much time you spend playing or try to keep your family or friends from knowing how much you game?
  9. Risk or lose relationships/opportunities - do you risk or lose significant relationships or job, educational or career opportunities because of gaming?

What management options are available?

The first important aspect is to admit that there is the possibility that you could be suffering from video game addiction and that help is needed to manage this issue.

It would be advisable to discuss your situation with your primary care doctor so that you can be referred to an appropriate facility which deals in video game addiction. 12-step programmes do exist and this is combined together with cognitive behaviour therapy which is offered by psychologists. Medication, such as SSRI anti-depressants, can be used to help reduce the addictive behaviour as well.

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