First of all, to clear up any confusion, gaming disorder is NOT an official diagnosis…yet. It was proposed to the International Classification of Diseases 11th Revision (ICD-11) which will come out later this year. Similarly the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-5) has Internet Gaming Disorder as a condition for further study. (1), (2)
In other words, both the mental health world and the medical world are recognizing that there is a need for further exploration and research of problematic video gaming as a behavioral addiction but that it is not a diagnosis as of right now (2/15/18).
Also what the heck is a behavioral addiction (or process addiction)?
I’m sure we’re all familiar with substance use addictions (heroin addiction for example). Behavioral addiction just means there is a specific behavior (shopping, food, exercise, gaming, etc.) that causes the same negative consequences minus the physical dependence as a substance use addiction. According to experts there is still a compulsion to engage in the specific behavior despite negative impact on the person’s functionality. (3)
And does this mean that the mental health and medical community all agree that video gaming is a terrible thing?
Absolutely not. There are literally communities of therapists and mental health professionals affirming geeks and gamers (including yours truly). There are also conferences out there dedicated to the positive impact of video game use. There’s even a Bill Nye Saves the World episode of how video games are changing the world called “Cheat Codes for Reality.” Science Rules!
What are my views on the matter?
Gaming Disorder (as it’s currently defined) will probably be akin to diagnosing the symptom and not the underlying cause. I believe it’s more likely that problematic gaming is a way to cope rather than the problem itself. It brings to mind the cultural implications of officially diagnosing video game use but excluding things like Netflix, social media, or other equally binge-worthy ways to “turn off your brain” or emotionally regulate.
That being said I do believe that gaming can become problematic for some. The one benefit that I could see in using Gaming Disorder as a diagnosis is for insurance reimbursement and creating relevant treatment plans that reflect that diagnosis. This would only be the case if folks can separate the person from the diagnosis and acknowledge that some video game use and gaming culture is just as rich and important as other forms of subculture.
Another problem with classifying Gaming Disorder as a diagnosis is that there are no evidence-based treatment models out there to help with video game addiction- yikes! So what is that going to mean for professionals when people start to come in with the diagnosis and we have no empirical way to treat it? I think this just speaks to how new the concern is in general and how- as a professional community- we might be biting off more than we can chew.
Shout out to this podcast by GT Radio for helping me to stimulate my views.
Let’s keep the conversation open and not jump to any medical disease-type conclusions just yet, please!
If you’re interested in me as a gamer-affirmative therapist, you can email me here and I’d be happy to answer any questions. I am accepting new clients in South Austin at this time, so I’d be happy to set up a free 30-minute consultation with you.
Julia Stamman, M.S., LPC-Intern
Supervised by Ann Stoneson, LPC-S