Gaming Addiction

1. What does this statement mean for the gaming community?

Termed as disorder due to addictive behavior, gaming disorder is defined as a pattern of behavior characterized by impaired control over gaming, increasing priority given to gaming to an extent that it takes precedence over all other interests and daily activities and ultimately results in negative consequences. WHO’s classification of addiction to gaming as a clinically recognized syndrome has caused various debates with gamers believing in it as a coping mechanism against anxiety and depression. They also tend to feel that if those underlying conditions are dealt with, gaming will also reduce. Gamers would not agree to this since one loses track of time when engrossed in playing and that does not qualify as a disorder.

2. How does it affect the gamer mentally?

Gamers who are addicted to playing these games face many mental problems. They experience difficulty in concentration, become irritable for smaller issues. Sometimes completing minor tasks from school or office becomes a great concern for them. Social interaction becomes less leading to being timid.

3. How does one make out that someone is addicted to gaming?

Video games are of different types, one in which a single player plays the game and the rounds usually end with rescuing a princess or attaining the hidden box of gems. Another type of video game is one which people adorn fictional characters and play against another group of players. These are more used like an escape from reality where gamers (players) feel accepted.

It is important to understand that one who plays video games frequently cannot be termed as a gaming addict, although this is general belief of parents and guardians. On the other hand, an addict is one who cannot think of anything else but gaming and tends to let gaming interfere with all activities including routine habits like personal hygiene, absenteeism from school, not socializing with friends or peers, lack of appetite etc. are those who have a problem and need to consult a specialist to get over the same. When people prefer to live in the virtual world than in reality, it is understood that they need assistance.

Severe gaming addiction can result in migraines, backaches, isolation, sleep disturbance, carpal tunnel syndrome etc.

4. What are the signs to watch out for?

Video game addiction is similar to drug addiction where a person experiences various physical and emotional symptoms. They include;

  • Ignorance of personal hygiene
  • Poor appetite
  • Weight loss
  • Sleep deprivation
  • Inability to concentrate
  • Irritability
  • Poor academic performance
  • Restlessness and mood swings when unable to play
  • Mood swings when restricted from playing
  • Isolation
  • Lack of physical activity
  • Health issues like dry eyes, back pain, carpal tunnel syndrome etc.

5. Tips on controlling this addiction, especially in children.

Video game addiction is treatable in an effective manner to make gaming a healthy part of normal life. Counseling and behavior modification are the major treatment options unless it is associated with any underlying medical condition. If the addiction leads to conditions like backache, dry eyes, carpel tunnel syndrome etc., then respective healthcare specialist consultation is required with necessary medications or treatment options.

It is crucial for parents to talk to their children on a regular basis about their issues. As a parent you will have to enforce healthy limits and restrictions on your child, for example regulations similar to that of watching television. Make sure they play video games only for limited time. Introduce your child to other outdoor and indoor activities like sports, music, reading etc. Complete restriction may sound a bit harsh and might not work although it may have positive results in certain cases. Observe your child’s behavior and address the issue immediately with appropriate actions upon noticing unusual symptoms like poor academic performance and behavioral changes. Always remember good habits lead to good and strong character.

Dr. Mustafa Saif 

Specialist Internal Medicine & HOD of Emergency Department 

Aster Hospital, Mankhool 

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