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Health & Parenting

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Study Identifies Risks for Video Game Addiction

Researchers Say Depression and Anxiety May Be Among the Consequences of Pathological Gaming
WebMD Health News
Reviewed by Laura J. Martin, MD

Jan. 18, 2011 -- Do your kids prefer to play their favorite video games over and above all other activities? Is he or she also impulsive and not at ease in social situations?

If so, your child may be at risk for becoming a video game addict or pathological gamer, a study suggests.

New research in the February issue of Pediatrics helps highlight risk factors for video game addiction as well as some of the potential consequences of pathological gaming, including depression, anxiety, social phobia, and trouble in school.

“It is not just about how much time is spent playing video games,” says study author Douglas A. Gentile, PhD, an associate professor of psychology at Iowa State University, Ames. “It is doing it in such a way that it damages your ability in many other areas, including social function, occupational function, relationships, and school performance.”

“Do you lie about how much you do it? Do you try to stop but can’t?” Gentile asks.

Video game addiction is not included in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-IV) as an official psychiatric diagnosis. “I don’t think we are there yet,” he says. “If this does turn out to be worthy of including in the DSM, it may end up being categorized as an impulse control disorder, such as pathological gambling.”

In Gentile’s two-year study of 3,000 school-aged children in Singapore, around 9% showed signs of video game addiction. This rate is similar to what has been reported in other countries.

Pathological gamers logged in more time playing video games, exhibited impulsive behavior, and were more likely to be socially awkward compared with those who were not hooked on video games, the study showed.

And pathological gaming may not be something that kids just grow out of, the new study suggests.

Fully 84% of those students who were video game addicts when the study began were still addicted two years later. “It is not a short-term problem,” Gentile says. “Once they get into a problematic pattern, it seems to stick with them.”

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