Gaming – can it become an addiction?
The World Health Organization has recently classified gaming disorder as a mental health condition. Whilst it is not an official disorder in the DSM-5, the APA is encouraging further research on the disorder for possible inclusion in future editions of the DSM.
An Oxford University study in 2016 estimated that 0.5 percent of the general population has a gaming addiction. That is millions of people. Games include “World of Warcraft”, “Fortnite”, “Grand Theft Auto” and “Call of Duty, and yes even games like Candy Crush.
The thrill of the game gives the brain a hit of dopamine – similar to a drug addict taking a hit. Warning signs of addiction include social withdrawal and isolation, sleeplessness and irritability and changes in weight.
Do you think you may have a problem? Gamers can ask themselves whether they have experienced “significant impairment in personal, family, social, educational, occupational or other important areas of functioning” for at least a year.
There are severity modifiers for Internet Gaming Disorder: mild, moderate, or severe. These modifiers are based on how much time is spent playing the games, and how much they impact a person’s overall functioning. In summary, the diagnostic criteria for Internet Gaming Disorder may include:
- Repetitive use of Internet-based games, often with other players, that leads to significant issues with functioning. Five of the following criteria must be met within one year:
- Preoccupation or obsession with Internet games.
- Withdrawal symptoms when not playing Internet games.
- A build-up of tolerance–more time needs to be spent playing the games.
- The person has tried to stop or curb playing Internet games, but has failed to do so.
- The person has had a loss of interest in other life activities, such as hobbies.
- A person has had continued overuse of Internet games even with the knowledge of how much they impact a person’s life.
- The person lied to others about his or her Internet game usage.
- The person uses Internet games to relieve anxiety or guilt–it’s a way to escape.
- The person has lost or put at risk and opportunity or relationship because of Internet games.
The regulation of gambling in Kenya has led to the closing down of gambling dens and the offering of online gambling services which has increased the ease with which one can place bets. Kenya reportedly has the highest number of young people in sub-Saharan Africa who gamble frequently (age 17-35). Also it is estimated that 78% of all Kenya university students were problem gamblers.
Government attempts to control the gambling by taxing winnings up to 20%. It is suggested that these attempts fail to understand the psychology behind problem gambling.
Whilst millions of people use gambling as a form of entertainment, for many gambling becomes an obsession.
Problem gamblers gamble with more money than they can afford to lose, and experience other adverse consequences in their lives due to the gambling.
The illusion of control over a game driven chance is the core belief that influences the disordered thinking of problem gamblers
Beliefs like certain machines are ‘lucky’ or due for a big win. A near win is seen as sign that a win in imminent. Selective recall of winnings rather than losses is common place for problem gamblers.
To meet the criteria for gambling disorder, a person has to have at least four of the problems identified below, within a 12 month period, in conjunction with “persistent and recurrent problematic gambling behaviour”
- Needing to gamble with more money to get the same excitement from gambling as before
- Feels reckless or irritable when trying to reduce or stop gambling
- Keeps trying to reduce or stop gambling without success
- Gambling is frequently on the persons mind – both reliving past gambling experiences, and planning future gambling events
- Gambles when feeling depressed, guilty or anxious
- Tries to win back gambling lossess
- Tries to cover up how much they are gambling
- Loses not only money, but also relationships, their job, or a significant career opportunity as a result of gambling
- Becomes dependent on other people to give them money to deal with financial problems that have been caused by gambling.