New insights into gaming disorder: Is it really a thing?

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Who doesn’t like playing video games? We’ve all tried our hand at it. But there’s more to this internet gaming than we realize.

While initially there was a stigma that playing video games causes aggression, many experts found this an ill-informed perspective. After all, video games are very variable. They can be educational and therapeutic and can be cognitively enhancing as well.

Studies have found that there is no difference in response to emotional cues between users of violent games and control subjects, indicating that the idea of gaming causing violence does not have much evidence. But everything should be in moderation. When video game use grows out of control, it becomes a disorder. But how do you know if you (or someone you know) suffer from it?

Signs of Internet Gaming Disorder (IGD)

First, to be diagnosed with IGD you must have a preoccupation with gaming. Do you find yourself thinking about playing even while doing other tasks? Second, you must experience withdrawal when you’re not able to play. Do you get irritable and uneasy when you’re not able to play?

Thirdly, you might have slowly increased the amount of time you spend playing. You need to play more and more to derive pleasure from the activity. Fourth, you can’t stop yourself from playing even though you are aware of the negative consequences, and you might lie to your friends, family, and workplace about playing. If it has become an escape for you up to the point where you’re willing to jeopardize your relationships, you might have a problem.

Recent Findings

Gaming Disorder, or GD, is considered an addictive disorder. But unlike substance use disorders, it describes a behavioral addiction. Yet, the two have many similarities. In the brain, they both involve impairment of the prefrontal cortex, which is responsible for cognitive functions like decision-making, response inhibition, working memory, and emotional regulation. Both might involve impaired psychosocial functioning. It’s also possible that people with IGD have comorbid conditions like ADHD and impaired reward processing.

Mostly up until now, we have only talked about the consequences of playing video games in the context of young children; how video games can teach children bad things, and cause inattention and deviant behavior. But video games have been around for a while now. It’s not only the youth that is in danger of mental health conditions that arise out of excessive screen time. Older populations that have been exposed to video games also face long-term consequences.

Studies have found that millennials and Generation X are equally at risk for mental health conditions associated with playing video games. Moreover, it can’t be ignored that studies have found that social anxiety, loneliness, and depression are associated with the presence of this disorder. Generation and relationship status played a moderating role (Wang & Cheng, 2021), indicating that gaming disorder is quite complex. Its nature varies between individuals and it’s an arena that demands exploration in the digital age.

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