Doctors on Sunday backed away from a controversial proposal to designate video game addiction as a mental disorder akin to alcoholism, saying psychiatrists should study the issue more. Addiction experts also strongly opposed the idea at a debate at the American Medical Association’s annual meeting. They said more study is needed before excessive use of video and online games — a problem that affects about 10 percent of players — could be considered a mental illness.
A committee of the physicians’ group had proposed video game addiction be listed as a mental disorder in the American Diagnostic and Statistic Manual of Mental Disorders, a guide used by the American Psychiatric Association in diagnosing mental illness. Such a move would ease the path for insurance coverage of video game addiction. Even before debate on the subject began, the committee that made the proposal backed away from its position, and instead recommended that the American Psychiatric Association consider the change when it revises its next diagnostic manual in five years.
While occasional use of video games is harmless and might even help with some disorders like autism, doctors said in extreme cases it can interfere with day-to-day necessities like working, showering or even eating.
Dr. Louis Kraus of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry and a psychiatrist at Rush University Medical Center, said it is not yet clear whether video games are addictive: “It’s not necessarily a cause-and-effect type issue. There might be certain kids who have a compulsive component to what they are doing,” he said in an interview with Reuters.
But addictive or not, too much time spent playing video games takes away from other important activities: “The more time kids spend on video games, the less time they will have socializing, the less time they will have with their families, the less time they will have exercising,” Kraus said. “They can make up academic deficits, but they can’t make up the social ones.”
The AMA committee will consider the testimony and make its final recommendation to the AMA’s 555 voting delegates, who will vote on the matter later this week.