FORT WAYNE, Ind. (FOX 55) - Gaming Disorder is defined by the World Health Organization as "a pattern of gaming behavior ("digital-gaming" or "video-gaming") characterized by impaired control over gaming.. And a continuation or escalation of gaming despite the occurrence of negative consequences."
"It's just like drugs or any other kind of medium that people get addicted to. If someone can't cope with their life and they can't handle the stresses of life and this is all that they're doing or this is all that they're exposing themselves to, you're going to see an addiction pop-up," said Geoffery Wright, the eSports coach at Indiana Tech. He also says it can happen to anyone, saying:
"I don't like people thinking gamers are sociopaths that stay up in their room all day and they don't have any physical activity, they don't have any social development with their friends because they're like "oh you're up there by yourself. I think that gaming has a bad stigma."
But how does it happen?
"Most games are around a principle that you do something, you do an activity, or quest, or complete an objective and you get a reward," Wright explains. "Your character gets stronger, something cool happens, you learn more about a story line and that's kind of how things work."
It's those rewards that can be addictive, says psychiatric nurse practitioner Sharon Clevenger. "These game developers know the way to get somebody addicted, as you will, to something is to give them a really exciting reward, just randomly, and so they're going to play to try and get that reward."
It's estimated that only 1 or 2 percent of gamers become addicted, but that translates to potentially thousands of people suffering from the disorder across Indiana.
However, Clevenger is concerned about how we classify gaming disorder, saying "there should be an umbrella, there should be the umbrella disorders of the obsessive compulsive behavior disorders and then underneath that what is the specific activity that the person is being excessive in."
Signs someone is addicted to gaming include:
- No interest in spending time with friends and family
- Hygiene is getting worse
- Spending excessive amounts of money on a game
- Losing contact with the outside world
- Poor health
But, there are ways to help fight back. Those include:
- Cutting out the source of the problem
- Check on them if you're worried
- Make sure they have a community of support around them
"These disorders don't start out that severe and so we tend to miss when someone is starting to develop a problem if we don't interrupt it at the point that, okay, this is becoming a problem," says Clevenger.
If you know someone who you believe has gaming disorder, it's suggested to take the problem away, seeking a mental health professional if necessary.