Sunday 01 July 2007

Video Game Addiction: A Phantom Disease?

Last month the American Medical Association (AMA) rejected a controversial proposal to classify video game addition as a mental disorder. As both an avid gamer and a health professional myself, I applaud the decision by the AMA to instead recommend that more rigorous scientific research be done to study this phenomena (or epiphenomena). I make no claim to have any medical knowledge on addiction; still, I find it troublesome to label the overuse of video gaming as an addiction akin to alcohol or drug addiction. This is because the mere overuse or overindulgence of an activity, such as video gaming, cannot by itself define it to be an addiction. Not only such an act wrongly promotes a societal stereotype (of a video game “junkie"), the act of labeling (someone to have a disease when there is none) may even be medically harmful. It may lead to a misdiagnosis of an underlying illness (mental or physical) for which so-called video game addiction is simply an epiphenomena or a mere sign of an undiagnosed disease. Undoubtedly, there are rare cases of individuals (particularly adolescents) reported by the mainstream media in whom playing video games has led to addiction-like behaviors. In these cases, however, it is more (or equally) likely that these individuals are suffering from some other legitimate mental disorders for which playing video games has simply become a platform for the underlying disease to manifest. In other words, until science can validate such claims, diagnosing video addiction today may be akin to diagnosing “female hysteria” centuries ago, a practice that once led to the ludicrous use of pelvic massage to treat a phantom disease.

By Philip Jong • At 12:01 AM • Under Column • Under Health • Under Play • Under Tech • Under Work • Under World
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