Gaming – can it become an addiction?

The World Health Organisation 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:

  1. 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:
  2. Preoccupation or obsession with Internet games.
  3. Withdrawal symptoms when not playing Internet games.
  4. A build-up of tolerance–more time needs to be spent playing the games.
  5. The person has tried to stop or curb playing Internet games, but has failed to do so.
  6. The person has had a loss of interest in other life activities, such as hobbies.
  7. A person has had continued overuse of Internet games even with the knowledge of how much they impact a person’s life.
  8. The person lied to others about his or her Internet game usage.
  9. The person uses Internet games to relieve anxiety or guilt–it’s a way to escape.
  10. The person has lost or put at risk and opportunity or relationship because of Internet games.

Rehab in Cape Town. If you or your family member are struggling with a dependency of any kind, contact us for a free assessment. Tel: 021-7617348 or email

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