exploring internet gaming

Internet Gaming Disorder is a recent classification that has continued to stir up controversy and heated debates over the past several years. However, rather than acting on an assumption, we can benefit from learning the specifics of this much-debated disorder. There are many aspects to consider before presenting a diagnosis, including the individual’s behaviour, playstyle, the impact on their everyday life and relationships, and their mental wellness.

No Shortage of Triggering Sources

Many individuals, particularly young men, are enamoured with video games. This continually evolving meld of art and entertainment takes on different personalities in itself, depending on the context of the subject matter and playstyle in question. Internet gaming is an ever-growing trend, ignited by the popularity of streaming services and capability of giving individuals a platform on which to display their abilities and connect with other like-minded players globally.

With internet gaming competitions and massively multiplayer online roleplaying games (MMORPGs) such as Overwatch, there are many ways for competitively-natured and/or socially isolated individuals to assume a sense of belonging as part of a broader online community.

An “Unofficial” Disorder That Demands Further Research

Classified in Section III of the fifth edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) (APA 2013), Internet Gaming Disorder is recognized as a new phenomenon — “a condition warranting more clinical research and experience before it might be considered for inclusion in the main book as a formal disorder.” Therefore, it remains a condition for further study.

Most common in male adolescents between 12 to 20 years old and more prevalent in Asian countries, the disorder is the result of neurological prompts achieved through internet-based gaming that encourages feelings of reward, pleasure, and success. It is similar to addictive behaviour in this context, very much like how alcohol and smoking can be abused as coping mechanisms.

Diagnostic Criteria

There are several symptoms associated with Internet Gaming Disorder, including withdrawal when not playing internet-based video games as well as increased tolerance for longer playtimes — often to the point where it becomes a need more than a want. This can lead to mood fluctuations and “snapping” as well as self-inflicted social repression. Developing a loss of interest in other activities and/or manipulating others (through lying or persuasion) to gain more time in front of the screen are other indicators of an underlying issue. In addition, individuals suffering from Internet Gaming Disorder may jeopardize relationships or choose to miss out on various opportunities, and even if they know that it is an issue, they may continue to overuse this form of media as a means of relieving anxiety or guilt.

Internet video games are an engrossing and often addictive form of entertainment, and while it may be beneficial to enjoy a little escapism once in a while, it is easy to develop a fun pastime into a damaging form of abuse that, like with harmful substances, can be challenging to move on from. If you are looking for an Ottawa-area therapist and feel that you or someone you know is suffering from Internet Gaming Disorder, contact us today to get started on working towards a solution.