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Chronic Gamers May Soon Be Classified In Unique Mental Disorder

Video games have been a popular pass time since their inception in the early 1950’s, but they have taken a drastic spike in popularity within the last two decades. In fact, the number of men and women who play these games regularly has gotten so high that it may soon find its own classification as a mental disorder. Science Direct explains: “Internet gaming disorder (IGD) has received nomenclatural recognition as a potential mental health disorder, despite evident variability in its core psychopathology and psychometric assessment. Although cognitive-behavioural therapy (CBT) is considered an efficacious treatment for IGD, the underlying cognitions of the disorder are not well understood.”   

The concept of Internet Gaming Disorder is new and not yet fully realized as a mental issue, but it is clear through scientific research that individuals who indulge in this behavior chronically tend to process thought differently than those who do not game.

Research And Documentation

The most recent research being completed by scientists interested in the prospect of a gaming disorder, has found that brain connectivity in gamers and non-gamers differs. Those who play videogames to an excessive and almost obsessive degree show differences in brain scan results which suggest that they may have less control over impulses and distractions, much like that of an individual with ADHD. Medical News Today writes about the findings, advising: “The research, published in Addiction Biology, was a joint effort between the University of Utah School of Medicine and Chung-Ang University in South Korea. The study involved taking magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scans of 78 males aged 10-19. The participants were all seeking treatment for Internet gaming disorder (IGD). The resultant findings were compared with 73 MRI investigations of boys without the disorder.”

Some of the theories surrounding the possible new disorder suggest that those with IGD, Internet Gaming Disorder, might go so far as to ignore health warnings, neglect to care for their families, and avoid social activities and personal or business obligations in order to continue playing video games. A severe reaction to the disorder has shown a lack of sleep and nutrition in some subjects, proving that gamers may fail to recognize the negative implication of this neglect, or that they simply do not prioritize it over completing the levels of their games.

The latest study mentioned above took data from various brain structures to check for connectivity in those with and without the possible IGD. While there were some negative differences, scientists also witnessed positive alterations in connections as well. Those who participated in ongoing gaming practices had heightened vision and hearing connections compared to those who did not game. These differences open up many questions about the nature verses nurture argument in regards to processes in the brain.

Differences In Gaming Types

There is more than one type of gaming addiction as is evident by those who participate in online gambling practices. While online poker might appear to be similar in many ways to those siting around playing virtual super heroes over the internet, the underlying reasoning is different and therefore the outcome also changes. Psychology Today writes: “Internet-based gambling is not included in the diagnostic criteria for Internet Gaming Disorder. This is because Internet-based gambling is already included in the Gambling Disorder diagnostic criteria. There are severity modifiers for Internet Gaming Disorder: mild, moderate, or severe. These modifiers are based on how much time is spent playing the games, and how much they impact a person’s overall functioning.”

The latest information on IGD is directed at non-gambling games alone, as they hold an entirely different meaning for the reason in obsessive behaviors. Gambling is diagnosed as an addiction, and can take place on or offline, with those who continue gambling being involved for reasons involving the possibility of winning money. Online gamers who play with no real prize outcome are playing for the pure joys of the game, or to escape realities around them. Their ability to climb so deeply into the activity that they ignore the world around them is the reason it may soon be deemed a disorder, and why it can become quite dangerous to those who continue to neglect personal health and relationships with others in order to play.

Disorder Status

Until IGD is proven to be a true disorder, it will not be diagnosed or treated by the medical community. As it stands, at most, it is considered an obsession, albeit an unhealthy one depending on the circumstances. While parents can help avoid the issue by regulating game time, adult gamers will need to learn to control this obsession for themselves. If obsessive chronic online gaming is not diagnosed as a disorder, the differences seen in brain scans may in fact be linked to something else and further scientific investigation will be required to determine its cause and the overall ongoing effect.

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