AMA Rejects Video Game Addiction

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At its annual meeting in Chicago, the American Medical Association rejected a proposal to formalize video game addiction as a mental disorder in the American Diagnostic and Statistic Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM IV) used by the American Psychiatric Association. The move has been generally welcomed by the gaming industry and community, although few would deny that a handful of players do become obsessively involved in video games and may benefit from intervention or professional help to bring better balance to their lives. However, Dr. Stuart Gitlow of the American Society of Addiction Medicine noted, “There is nothing here to suggest that this is a complex physiological disease state akin to alcoholism or other substance abuse disorders, and it doesn’t get to have the word addiction attached to it.”

The proposal to list video game addition in the DSM IV came from the AMA’s Council On Science And Public Health, which at the AMA’s 2006 meeting was tasked with reviewing and summarizing “emotional and behavioral effects, including addiction potential, of video games,” and making recommendations to the larger group. One of the committee’s recommendations was that the larger body consider including video game addiction as a mental disorder in the DSM IV; it also recommended (Microsoft Word document) a review of the current video game ratings, increased education to physicians and families on the appropriate use of video games, that video games be included in the one- to two-hour limits on screen time recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics, increased monitoring of content of Internet games played by children under 17, and long-term study of both beneficial and detrimental impacts of video games and online gaming on children under 18 years of age.

In rejecting the proposal video game addiction be classified as a mental disorder, addiction experts claimed more study was needed before any classification as a mental disease could be established. The Council On Science And Public Health seemed to agree, suggesting that the American Psychiatric Association consider the classification in five years’ time, when it will be revising the DSM IV and more studies on the impacts of video games on children and development will be available. The Entertainment Software Association, which represents the interests of the larger video game industry, also opposed the proposed classification.