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APA Considers Potential Internet Gaming Disorder

by: NCRG Staff | May 20, 2013

Has the reclassification of gambling disorder as a addictive behavior in the the fifth edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) opened the floodgates to other non-substance based addictions? The American Psychiatric Association (APA) announced yesterday that Internet Gaming Disorder is identified in Section III of the DSM-5 as a condition warranting more clinical research and experience before it might be considered for inclusion in the main book as a formal disorder.

Wilson Compton, M.D., of the DSM-5 work group on Substance Use Disorders and the National Institute on Drug Abuse reported that the DSM-5 group was persuaded to highlight Internet Gaming Disorder because of studies, mainly from researchers in Asian countries. This research showed that excessively playing social online games could indicate a robust phenomenon potentially deserving of a diagnostic category. The “gamers” play compulsively, to the exclusion of other interests, and their persistent and recurrent online activity results in clinically significant impairment or distress. Studies indicate that young males are most at risk for this problem. Keep in mind that the research cited for this phenomenon is focused on gaming, not Internet gambling although the proposed criteria parallel the symptoms for a gambling disorder.

The research base for Internet Gaming Disorder remains underdeveloped and, therefore, a number of limitations characterize this body of work. For example, studies measuring the prevalence of the condition used different measures and have wildly different results, from 6 to 64 percent. Many of the studies used a sample of convenience, meaning that the individuals who were surveyed were not representative of the entire population.

The recognition of this condition raises a number of questions:

—  Could this condition be culture-bound and only specific to the Asian countries in which the bulk of the research has been conducted?

— Will the openness to behavioral addictions in addition to gambling disorder result in an eventual laundry list of different addictive behaviors focused on the target of the addiction rather than the underlying causes of addiction? The concept of addiction as syndrome, a concept proposed by Shaffer et al. (2004), provides an alternative framework that would preclude such a development.

— Will the label “Internet Gaming Disorder” be misconstrued as gambling, especially with the expansion of Internet gambling?

What do you think of Internet Gaming Disorder? Share your comments below.

References

Shaffer, H.J., LaPlante, D.A., LaBrie, R.A., Kidman, R.C., Donato, A., & Stanton, M.V. (2004). Toward a syndrome model of addiction: Multiple expressions, common etiology. Harvard Review of Psychiatry, 12(6), 367-374.

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