Video Gaming Disorder: A Legitimate Human Disease

It is undeniable that video games play a big part in the lives of modern-day teens and adults. According to statistics found by researchers at ESA (Entertainment Software Association), 42 percent of Americans play video games regularly – denoted by a total weekly gaming time of over three hours.

Despite video games being fun pastimes, people who are addicted to their video games report various physical and social problems – weight loss, depression, social withdrawal – that pose a threat to their wellbeing. Seeing the harmful effects video games have on individuals, the World Health Organization recently added gaming disorder to its list of human diseases.

According to the World Health Organization, video gaming disorder is defined as “a pattern of gaming behavior (digital-gaming or video-gaming) characterized by impaired control over gaming, increasing priority given to gaming over other activities to the extent that gaming takes precedence over other interests and daily activities.”

The disorder was proposed when researchers led by Douglas Gentile discovered after performing a longitudinal study on a group of children that when “kids [who played video games extensively] became addicted, their depression increased, their anxiety increased, their social phobia increased, and their grades decreased.”

As a result, the culprit, video games, are nicknamed by some parents and doctors as “digital heroine”.

Most insurance companies refuse to cover medical costs unless their client has a disease that falls under the World Health Organization’s list of human diseases. As a result, insurance companies will not cover the medical expenses for clients who want their gaming disorder treated. By allowing video gaming disorder to be on the list of human diseases, patients getting treated for gaming disorder can finally get monetary assistance from their insurance providers.

Fortunately, the effects of video gaming disorder are easily mitigated. According to Dr. Petros Levounis, chair of psychiatry at the New Jersey Medical School at Rutgers University: “when kids were able to back off from obsessive gaming, their symptoms reversed.”

Critics against the addition of video gaming disorder being classified as a human disease argue that video gaming itself poses no additional threat than any other “safe” activity and that anything, when done excessively, can become a habit and later an addiction.

For example, if a person was to play soccer excessively every day of the year, that person will eventually put a high priority on playing soccer daily later in life - potentially setting aside important things such as studying and sleeping. As a result, would it be necessary to coin “excessive-soccer-playing” as a human disease? These critics argue that it is unreasonable to say video games are “dangerous” when in fact anything, when done excessively, can become addictive and possibly “dangerous”.

Along with that, critics also argue that video gaming disorder results not from video games, but from a weak-minded individual. Drug addictions happen when chemicals in drugs, such as nicotine in tobacco, alter your body’s biological balance of hormones and chemicals. This alteration leads to the addiction.

However, unlike drugs, video games can’t biologically influence your body. There are no chemicals being injected into your body forcing you to become addicted. This means you aren’t physical compelled to play video games, rather you are still in control and telling yourself you want to keep playing. As a result, video gaming disorder can hardly be called a human disease, but a matter of certain people having weak self-control and will.

Overall, though video gaming disorder is classified as a human disease by the World Health Organization, video games shouldn’t be considered “dangerous”. According to studies done “only 1 percent and 10 percent of kids who play video games develop this disorder.” As a result, it is completely safe to let kids, teens, and even adults to game and hopefully, by classifying video gaming disorder as an official human disease, insurance companies will be pressured to helping the seriously addicted gamers get the assistance they need.

[Source: NBC News]