Can't Get Enough of the Game

Researchers find that the increasing problem of video game addiction leads to other psychological issues

(RxWiki News) A team of international researchers has found that video game addiction is a growing problem that can lead to numerous psychological issues.

Although video game addiction is not officially considered an addiction by the American Psychiatric Association, some scholars recognize video game addictions harmful effects and prefer to call it pathological gaming. It is estimated that around nine percent of American youths are pathological gamers. Similar numbers (between 7 and 11 percent) have been found in countries such as China, Australia, Germany, and Taiwan.

For this study, researchers evaluated 3,034 Singaporean students in grades three through eight for signs of pathological gaming. Using similar standards for diagnosing gambling addiction, the researchers found that between 8 and 10 percent of those students could be classified as pathological gamers. They also observed some serious consequences of pathological gaming, including anxiety, depression, social phobias, and poor performance in school.

Prior to this study, it was disputed whether pathological gaming was a product or a source of depression. According to Douglas Gentile, associate professor of psychology at Iowa State University and one of the study's authors, his team's findings appear to support the hypothesis that pathological gaming increases the risk of depression and other psychological problems. In fact, they were able to show that risks of depression, anxiety, and social phobias not only increased as children became more addicted, but those same symptoms also decreased as children became less addicted.

By definition, pathological gaming causes problems for those it affects. That is, for gaming to be considered pathological, it must be harming the gamer in a significant way. Taking into account the worldwide prevalence of pathological gaming and its adverse affects, more should be done to identify and help those who are truly addicted.

The study will appear in the February 2011 issue of the journal Pediatrics.

Review Date: 
January 19, 2011