A new emerging disorder: Internet Gaming Disorder

- Mahak Chopra

Online Gaming- as we’ve all heard, is becoming increasingly common and popular. You will find today’s children as young as 5 years of age, are glued to their screens. The traditional mode of playing games in real life has taken a significant shift to virtual life. Where everything in life has two sides, so does online/internet gaming. During the pandemic, when all of us were locked in the four walls of our homes, that’s when online gaming suddenly gained a lot of momentum. It became the medium of socializing and staying connected through fun.  In India, an average gamer is below 24 years of age, is usually a male, is introduced to gaming by friends/family or peer group, and engages in gaming for social interaction & stress relief. Mobile phones are the most preferred devices but experienced gamers tend to shift to larger screens.

A new disorder called Internet Gaming Disorder (IGD) has come into the picture.
The 11th edition of the International Classification of Disorders (ICD-11) defines Internet Gaming Disorder as

“A pattern of gaming behavior that is characterized by impaired control over gaming, increasing priority given to gaming over other activities to the extent that gaming takes precedence over other interests & daily activities & continuation or escalation of gaming despite the occurrence of negative consequences”.

It’s viewed that children and adolescents between the age range of 4 years – 19 years old who engage in online gaming activities are most vulnerable to developing Internet Gaming Disorder.

The DSM-5 or the Diagnostic & Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders has included IGD as a condition requiring further clinical investigation before it can be included as a main clinical disorder. According to DSM, IGD includes symptoms such as preoccupation with the game, withdrawal, tolerance or the need to spend more time to satisfy the gaming urge, loss of control, giving up other activities, continuing to play despite problems, deception about the time period spent playing, using the game as an escape from reality, negative consequences.
The person addicted to online games spends most of their time playing and neglects personal hygiene, school/work, and spending time with family/friends. This excessive playing can lead them to not study, not eat on time, less socializing with the world around them, or cause other health issues. It can also lead to other mental health disorders.

A research study has listed 7 dimensions that can determine if a person is an Online Game Addict or not

  • salience or prioritizing gaming over everything else
  • tolerance or process of spending more time gradually for playing
  • mood modification or the individual’s experience of feeling pleasure where they’ve created bonding with the game
  • withdrawal or unpleasant feelings when not playing games
  • relapse or repeating a bad habit
  • conflict or rising stress levels due to longer playing hours which can lead to conflicts within the person and around them

Outcomes of IGD include anxiety, social phobias, physical health issues, and neglect of self. The IGD can lead to the experience of similar symptoms like substance abuse, impairing their coping abilities and psychosocial development. There exists neurological research showing similarities in changes in the brain between video gaming and addictive substances.

A few suggestions to overcome IGD include:

  1. Talk with your child/adolescent as to why they like online gaming so much & its mental, physical & safety hazards
  2. Set strict time limits on the number of playing hours
  3. Install parental control apps/extensions to block their access from certain games or websites
  4. Introduce & encourage them to take up other hobbies/activities, especially a physical activity like exercising or swimming
  5. Get help from mental health professionals to manage & overcome the addicted behavior of the concerned person
  6. Look for support groups in your locality & enroll the person with addiction there
  7. Keep gadgets/phones out of the bedroom so that they don’t play at night
  8. Look out for the above-mentioned signs of addiction

Excessive internet gaming addiction is destroying lives and breaking families. Many parents across India struggle to limit their child’s internet and gaming use. The unnecessary sharing of sensitive and personal information by adolescents and children can result in cheating, privacy violations, bullying, and abuse. Besides having psychological problems, the addiction is manifested in physical problems like near-sightedness, back problems, headaches, digestion problems, obesity, etc.

Isn’t it breaking homes?
The fantasy world is so cool and looks realistic, some people simply love the thriller and violent genres of games – but only our conscious decisions can save us!

Gaming disorder. (n.d.). https://www.who.int/standards/classifications/frequently-asked-questions/gaming-disorder
Gulati, I., & Shukla, J. (2021). A Study of the Impact of Internet Gaming on Aspects of Quality of Life and Flourishing of Young Undergraduates in India. International Journal of Cyber Behavior, Psychology and Learning, 11(1), 50–63. https://doi.org/10.4018/ijcbpl.2021010104
Internet Gaming Disorder: Symptoms, Diagnosis, Treatment. (2021, October 5). Verywell Health. https://www.verywellhealth.com/internet-gaming-disorder-5200375
Just a moment. . . (n.d.). https://www.psychiatry.org/patients-families/internet-gaming
Kuss, D. J., & Griffiths, M. D. (2012). Internet gaming addiction: A systematic review of empirical research. International Journal of Mental Health and Addiction, 10(2), 278-296.