With gaming addiction now recognised as a disorder, how do we identify and treat it?

Gaming Addiction Is Real—And Treatable

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After years of discussion by specialists, gaming addiction is now officially being recognized by the World Health Organization (WHO) as a disorder.

It has been more than 25 years since the International Classification of Diseases (ICD) was updated—the catalogue used by doctors to diagnose all medical conditions. But later in 2018, the 11th volume will have a new entry: gaming disorder. According to the BBC, the classification is still in draft form, so the wordings might change, but recognition of gaming addiction is here to stay.

There can be a fine line between being a committed gamer and a troubled one: knowing how to identify warning signs of a behavioural addiction and when to intervene can change the course of a young person’s life.

Signs of a Gaming Disorder

There are several indicators you can look for to see if a teen’s gaming patterns show signs of addiction, according to the WHO.

  • A lack of control over how often the individual engages in gaming, how intense gaming sessions are, and how long they last
  • Gaming increasingly becomes a high priority
  • Even after experiencing negative consequences, the gamer continues to engage in the activity, or even increases their involvement

Other experts say that there are physical indicators that gaming has become unhealthy. In these cases, the gamer exhibits signs of:

  • Poor personal grooming
  • Muscle strain in hands due to overuse of gaming controller or a mouse
  • Fatigue, tiredness
  • Headaches linked to eye strain

The ICD recommends monitoring gaming habits over the course of a year to determine if addiction treatment is necessary. Research also shows that boys spend more time gaming than girls, so are therefore likely to make up a greater number of those with behavioural disorders linked to the activity.

Is Gaming Taking Over Your Life?

What Gaming Addiction Can Do To You

As with any behavioural disorder, gaming addiction has long-term effects. The lack of sleep and balanced meals that addicted gamers forgo can negatively affect their academic performance, lead to poor nutrition, and even contribute to sleep disorders, which are linked to an unhealthy amount of screen time.

There are social consequences as well. The more someone with a gaming disorder retreats into a virtual world, the weaker their relationships can become with others in real life, including their peers. As they miss opportunities to form and grow bonds, friendships can fizzle out, until the addicted individual becomes isolated. Studies show that social isolation can in turn increase the risk of depression, anxiety and even substance abuse.

Gaming is not cheap, and those who are addicted to it can require large sums of money in order to maintain access to networks, equipment, and software necessary to continue playing. In the case of teenage boys and young men living at home, it is often their parents who find themselves financially responsible for a loved one’s gaming habit.

Getting Gaming Under Control

We know that gaming can be addictive, and at The Edge, we are ready to help your son change his relationship with this technology.

Our program is part of The Cabin Group, recognized internationally for providing high-quality, specialised treatment for behavioural problems and substance abuse. Serving as a pioneer in helping young men in particular, The Edge offers youth from around the world the opportunity to confront and cope with the issues that drive them to engage in unhealthy gaming.

From our base in the idyllic mountains of northern Thailand, we provide comprehensive, individualised treatment courses that address and aim to eliminate underlying factors leading youth toward addiction and isolation. You can rest assured that The Edge is dedicated to progress and innovation in our therapies: through our own treatment model, we combine cognitive behavioural therapy with mindfulness and the traditional 12 Steps to treat each person holistically.

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A Place to Reset and Recharge

With the WHO’s breakthrough announcement, more concerned parents will undoubtedly be asking whether their child’s relationship with games is healthy, or if it requires an intervention.

While some rehabilitation programs might likely struggle to cope with treating this “new” addiction, The Edge has a long history of confronting behavioural disorders, including those involving gaming. Through one-on-one and group therapy sessions, intensive athletic activity, wilderness excursions, and community service, we immerse struggling gamers in nature, distancing them from triggering technological influences. Find out more about the program’s activities, care and schedule here.

Because of our commitment to small enrolment groups, space is limited at The Edge. If your child is interested in participating in a treatment course that will shift his focus from gaming to a stronger engagement with the world around him, contact us to set up a free and confidential consultation.