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Monday, July 24, 2006

The EverCrack Epidemic : Is Game Addiction a Medical Condition?

TwichGuru has a great article this morning taking a look at game addiction, a condition that probably affects the life of many of you hardcore gamers / MMORPG fans out there. A very interesting read.

Video game addiction made headlines last week when a clinic in the Netherlands opened its doors to compulsive gamers who can't seem to pull themselves away from their PCs and consoles. The clinic is run by "addiction consultants" Smith & Jones, a Dutch firm founded in 2004 by Keith Bakker.

Is game addiction truly a medical condition? What do you guys think?

Read more.


  • The DSM IV (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders - the psychologist's bible) actually has no mention of the term "addiction" in it. Instead they use the term "dependence" (eg. chemical dependence).

    This is where the rift is the diagnosis comes in - where's the "stimulant". While the answer is pretty obivious to most readers here, this is a pretty drawn out debate in the psychological world. And, interestingly enough, a person with a cocaine dependence who hears about cocaine and a person with a behavioral dependence such as a gambler hearing about playing cards both have the same area of their brain activated in a pet scan.

    Still, though, many people with a behavioral "addiction" such as this are often treated for OCD or with a similar behavioral therapy instead of the "substance" treatment they may need.

    My husband did his undergrad thesis on internet addiction :)

    By Blogger Tracy, at 11:12 AM  

  • I don't think so! It's a choice to hole yourself up away from your friends/family/society and choose to get all your "interaction" through a game. It's obsessive, but not a medical condition. I think it's more of a psychological issue.

    I have given up on one friend who plays WoW. The last time he came over to see me, all he did was talk about it. That and Texas Hold'em. I've just given up on calling him. He's lazy and doesn't want to put forth the effort to have a real friendship. Online friendships are not the same.

    By Blogger Stephanie, at 11:19 AM  

  • Tracy: Addiction or Dependance, what's the difference? They basicly mean the same thing

    I did a Define: Addiction and Define: Dependance in google and here's what I got:

    Addiction: Uncontrollable craving, seeking, and use of a substance such as a drug or alcohol (Or internet/gaming in this case)

    Dependance: being abnormally tolerant to and dependent on something that is psychologically or physically habit-forming.

    I had no ideas that "dependence" to video games would stimulate the same area of the brain as "addiction" to cocaine. Interesting stuff, I'll have to look further into this.

    By Blogger Kiltak, at 12:06 PM  

  • Kiltak, overall problem here is that the DSM's definition for substance dependence does not leave room for a behavioral depedence without a chemical being involved. This creates a problem in the field and, I hope that by the time the 5th edition is realeased it will be resolved.

    The only difference in my view is wording - so we're arguing over semantics. I agree, it's petty for the psychological world to be doing so, especially since it has such a drastic influence on treatment at the moment.

    And, Stephanie. While I'm not defending your friend (or former friend's) actions in anyway, you said it yourself - he likes Texas hold em he's already susceptible to addiction. I think it's a choice to start playing a game such as WoW - but I think when it gets to the point that you're shutting out your friends/family and the rest of your life then you've reached an addiction.

    I'll have to get my husband to chime in on this and probably correct some of my wording (he's clinical psych - I'm industrial/organizational psych!). Coincidentally, he runs a gaming blog - haha.

    By Blogger Tracy, at 12:41 PM  

  • "the DSM's definition for substance dependence does not leave room for a behavioral depedence without a chemical being involved."

    Yes, I can understand why this is a problem, especially in the 21st century. With the evolution of thoughts and ideas in modern society, problems such as behevioral dependences are becomming much more talked about then they were a few years ago.

    The manual you're talking about is probably being updated by a bunch of old guys who don't know much about "modern technology-related addictions" :) Correct me if I'm wrong.

    By Blogger Kiltak, at 1:40 PM  

  • It seems that blogger.com has been experimenting all sorts of problem this morning, [gas] took forever to load and the commenting interface worked 50% of the time.

    By Blogger Kiltak, at 1:47 PM  

  • Ok, Stephanie, I'm sorry about your friend. Yes, it is a choice to play these games and to continue to do so. But, it is extremely difficult for him to make the choice to stop, and that's something that is hard for us to understand without going through it ourselves. He may or may not be lazy, I don't know him, but we do know that there is something more going on in these people.

    Kiltak, the problem with the terms is like Tracy said, that the psychological (or psychiatric) literature does not give a standard definition for "addiction," and the definition for "dependence" requires a substance. Now, there has been arguments concerning internal substances and the "natural opiates" that are in our brains that could meet the requirements, but I'm not going to get into all that. And the DSM is assembled by many, many professionals with a huge age range, and a good deal of them know a lot about computers and technology (my thesis advisor for example is building one from scrap parts as a hobby). The research in internet related disorders is just getting off the ground because there has not been a lot of time to do it yet (research takes decades or more). So, we may see mention of internet-based disorders in the new DSM, but I doubt they will have been incorporated officially. There have been a number of books on the subject, if you're interested, Dr. Kimberly S. Young is a leading researcher in the field.

    Hope that clears some things up, and try not to be too harsh to these people. Yes, it's a choice, but we all make poor choices, some are just easier to fix than others.

    By Blogger Jono, at 1:52 PM  

  • Ya.. see.. my addictions are Guild Wars and Oblivion...

    Stephanie; How is a Gambling addiction any different?? Gambling is a choice .. especially those people that are hooked on video poker.... the only difference is the high...

    In Gambling, the high comes from the Risk...

    In a video game - the high is the challenge to get as far as you can - and live in an alternative world - while using an alter-ego in your Video Game avatar....

    Video Gaming can VERY MUCH be an addiction BECAUSE it can become an obsession...

    But that's my opinion...

    By Blogger AlRo, at 2:10 PM  

  • Just stumbled upon this by luck, thought some of you might find this link interesting considering the nature of this post:

    Internet Addiction Guide

    "A resource for objective, useful information
    about Internet addiction, a theorized disorder."

    By Blogger Kiltak, at 2:17 PM  

  • THis is soooo freakin awesome.. how do I subscribe to this blog?

    By Blogger Riena, at 2:53 PM  

  • I am pretty sure you can call it a medical condition.
    My sisters boyfriend is one of those who almost destroyed his life because of it. Lost his job and also almost lost his girlfriend (my sister). He had to sell his game account to be able to stop. Now just recently he started again... "Just a little", he said... And once again more and more time is spent in front of the computer game. When i come over there.. he dont even see me.. dont even say "Hi" or anything... He is hooked for sure.
    I was close to getting stuck as well.. but with a diffrent game. As for now.. i'm trying to normalize.. meet my friends again.. but the game is always in my head. It's hard to escape once stuck.

    By Blogger Pricilla, at 4:07 PM  

  • Hello,
    I can't believe there is a clinic for gamers who are addicted to playing them. How do you get a person to leave their games to show up for a diagnosis of the disorder?
    I know gaming is addictive for some people but, is a clinic really necessary.


    By Blogger Allen K Brock, at 4:27 PM  

  • I remember a story of a guy in Korea who played a game for 3 days hardly eating anything cuz he was so hooked on a game.. and as he stood up to go for a piss - he died...

    I'd say that's an addiction..


    By Blogger AlRo, at 5:03 PM  

  • Allen, unfortunately, the clinic is long overdue. And your question about how to get them into therapy... that's a problem with most disorders. It usually takes someone they know to pull them off and force them in the door.

    By Blogger Jono, at 6:44 PM  

  • The clinic is, indeed, long overdue. A dear friend of mine recently lost his job because he'd spent so many late nights up playing his games. He'd sleep through three alarms in the morning. He's tried hard to quit his games but he can't break himself from them. Watching him reminded me of those trying to quit smoking - they get stressed or bored and they turn back in a heartbeat and they're hooked. Many even claim that it's a choice but there really is a point where they don't know how to go about life without their games.

    By Blogger Denise Nicole, at 9:32 PM  

  • I play games but 2-3 hours a day, I don't think I'm crazy on games.

    By Blogger BC87, at 1:03 AM  

  • alro:
    Stephanie; How is a Gambling addiction any different?? Gambling is a choice .. especially those people that are hooked on video poker.... the only difference is the high...

    In Gambling, the high comes from the Risk...

    ok gambling and gaming addictions are more alike than you would assume. I played the high end game for a yr or so. I know that my problem with game addiction as far as the raiding and everything, was definately the rush I got from the risk and reward... even though our guild plowed through EQ2.

    So, for gamers on that level, imo, gaming and gambling addictions are very similar.

    I think part of the potential risk for addiction is attributed in a big part to what these games have to offer people psychologically.

    They could be the most unattractive, unsuccessful person in the real world, but be a "king", have all the riches life can offer, fame, power, money.. all in their virtual world.

    I think it's definately more of a psychological problem. People can first become addicted to the rush the game gives you, and then start to depend on it in order to make their lives feel meaningful because they may or may not be unhappy in the real world otherwise.

    By Blogger Jet, at 5:45 PM  

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