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Video gaming not a mental disorder

There is nothing to suggest that it is a complex physiological disease akin to alcoholism or other substance-abuse disorders, say experts.

health and fitness Updated: Aug 18, 2007 21:00 IST

Experts have refused to dub video game addiction as menial illness, for they feel that psychiatrists should undertake more research before likening gaming obsession to alcoholism.

A committee had proposed the idea to include video-game addiction as a mental disorder in the American Diagnostic and Statistic Manual of Mental Disorders, which is a guide used by the American Psychiatric Association in diagnosing mental illness.

Opposing the idea at the American Medical Association's (AMA) annual meeting, doctors said that more study has to be done before branding the excessive use of video and online games, which affects about 10 per cent of people, as mental illness.

“There is nothing here to suggest that this is a complex physiological disease state akin to alcoholism or other substance-abuse disorders, and it doesn't get to have the word addiction attached to it," New Scientist quoted Stuart Gitlow of the American Society of Addiction Medicine and Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York as saying.

While occasional use of video can help treating disorders like autism, some doctors say excessive gaming can hinder day-to-day activities like working, showering and even eating.

"Working with this problem is no different than working with alcoholic patients. The same denial, the same rationalisation, the same inability to give it up,” said Thomas Allen of the Osler Medical Centre in Maryland, US.

However, Louis Kraus of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry and a psychiatrist at Rush University Medical Centre, said it is not clear if gaming is obsessive.

"It's not necessarily a cause-and-effect type issue. There may be certain kids who have a compulsive component to what they are doing,” Kraus said.

But, apart from the debate of video gaming can be called addictive or not, excessive gaming can leave no time for other important activities.

"The more time kids spend on video games, the less time they will have socialising, 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," Krans added.