Study finds “no compelling evidence” for game addiction to be classified as a disorder

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In June last year, the World Health Organisation added gaming addiction as a possible clinical disorder, ratifying that inclusion in May 2019, by officially  adding addiction to video games to their database of mental illnesses.

“Gaming disorder is a pattern of persistent or recurrent gaming behaviour, which may be online or offline, manifested by impaired control over gaming, increasing priority given to gaming to the extent that gaming takes precedence over other life interests and daily activities and continuation or escalation of gaming despite the occurrence of negative consequences.”

There are many – not just gamers, mind – who’ve taken umbrage to that classification, believing instead that obsessive gaming is a sign of an underlying disorder; a symptom itself as opposed to a medical malady.

A new academic study (via Video Games Chronicles)by Oxford University, in partnership with Cardiff University, has found “no compelling evidence” to suggest that obsessive gaming is a disorder. The study, titled “Investigating the Motivational and Psychosocial Dynamics of Dysregulated Gaming” was conducted by collecting and analysing data from 1,000 teenagers and their caregivers from throughout the united kingdom. Younger participants were polled about their gaming habits, while their caregivers were questioned over those children’s emotional and social wellbeing. Ultimately, the study concluded that those who engaged in “dysregulated video gaming” did so as a way to escape “underlying frustrations and wider psychosocial functioning issues”.

Says Professor Andrew Przybylski, director of research at the Oxford Internet Institute (and co-author of the study):

“The World Health Organisation and the American Psychiatric Association have called on researchers to investigate the clinical relevance of dysregulated video-gaming among adolescents, as previous studies have failed to examine the wider context of what is going on in these young peoples’ lives.

“This is something we seek to address with our new study. For the first time we apply motivational theory and open science principles to investigate if psychological need satisfactions and frustrations in adolescents’ daily lives are linked to dysregulated – or obsessive – gaming engagement.

“Our findings provided no evidence suggesting an unhealthy relationship with gaming accounts for substantial emotional, peer and behavioural problems.

“Instead, variations in gaming experience are much more likely to be linked to whether adolescents’ basic psychological needs for competence, autonomy, and social belonging are being met and if they are already experiencing wider functioning issues.

“In light of our findings we do not believe sufficient evidence exists to warrant thinking about gaming as a clinical disorder in its own right.”

And well…yeah. I think that’s largely true of many (but not all) dependencies; alcohol, drugs, gambling – they’re often used as ways of self-medication, as a means of escape. To that end, I think the World Health Organisation’s classification is misguided.

Last Updated: October 22, 2019

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