There’s probably no such thing as gaming addiction, claims study
Internet gaming addiction may well be a myth, according to new research.
The condition known as ‘Internet gaming disorder’ (IDG) is described by the American Psychiatric Association as a possible psychiatric condition. It is diagnosed using a number of criteria, including an obsession with online games and the presence of withdrawal symptoms when gamers don’t play them. If five or more items from the list of criteria are ticked off, the person is deemed to have IDG. It has been described as being most common in male adolescents between the ages of 12 and 20.
However, a new study from Cardiff University concluded that people play online games to excessive degree not because they are addicted to the games themselves, but because they are unsatisfied with other areas of their lives, reports New Scientist.
The study was carried out over six months on a sample of 2,316 gamers over the age of 18 – all regular users of online games. A questionnaire was used to find out about various aspects of the gamers’ lives including their health, lifestyle and the amount of physical activity they undertake.
Just nine of the participants met five or more of the IDG criteria and suffered distress because of their online gaming habits. But at the end of the six-test month test period, none of them still met the criteria and so were not diagnosed as having the gaming addiction. Just three of the participants matched four or more criteria at the start and end of the study, but none of them felt any ongoing distress as a result of their gaming.
The results were unexpected but further investigation by the researchers suggested that the gamers who showed the suggested symptoms of gaming addiction were generally unhappy about other areas of their lives, such as their jobs. This suggests that excessive online gaming may be a ‘displacement activity’ for people who are unsatisfied with their current situation, rather than an addiction, said the researchers.
However, the fact that the study relied solely on self-reporting questionnaires may have skewed the results, as people tend to under-report ‘bad’ behavior, Daria Kuss, a cyberpsychology expert at Nottingham Trent University, told New Scientist. She believes gaming addiction is a genuine condition that requires further research.
The results suggest that supporting basic psychological needs can cause IDG symptoms to decline over time, though the researchers didn’t observe any direct effect on the gamers’ health. Further research will be needed to determine if there is any such link.
“Only when such steps are taken will we know if the attention that researchers and clinicians give to the potential darker aspects of this immensely popular Internet-based activity is fully justified,” the researchers concluded.