Is it hobby or addiction? The World Health Organization has recently made it official, gaming disorder is a new mental health condition.
Now some parents are facing whether their child is addicted and needs help.
“Having the World Health Organization put their stamp on it is a pretty big deal,” said Columbus area counselor Tasha Boyer. “It makes a huge step forward for insurance companies to be able to give people reimbursement for getting that treated. There’s more access to treatment. More recognition by therapists. Mental health counselors who are willing to treat that as a disease not just a symptom of something that is larger.”
Boyer said there is a huge difference between enjoying playing on line games or being interested in playing X Box and having an actual dependence. “When you find that your day doesn’t feel right unless you can play FortNight or you can play whatever game captures your interest right now, that is kind of the dividing line,” said Boyer.
Gaming is not all bad. Boyer said gaming provides a mental challenge for individuals to problem-solve in the moment. “It does in some cases provide a way to connect socially while they are online. Particularly if it is someone they are able to connect with in real time,” Boyer said.
The counselor points out gaming should not interrupt meals or sleep. Children 14 to 18 need 9-10 hours sleep. “You are going to end up with a kid who has a deficit of sleep and that is going to effect how their brain develops. Which means some of their decision making and some of their ability to withstand every day problems is going to be reduced.”
“When you see your child start to say no I don’t want to do that. Or have tantrum like behavior or, anxiety depression because they are able to be on their online gaming that day,that is a pretty significant indicator it’s addiction level,” said Boyer.
Jacob Cohen, a 14 year old freshman at New Albany High School said he’s seeing more friends getting close to gaming addiction.
“That is the only thing you do. And when you are not talking to anybody. When you are just what they call in the zone playing a video game, that’s over the line. That is too much.”
The WHO announcement said parents need to ask, does gaming interfere with my child’s daily functioning? “So it really takes a lot of parent intervention to say we are going to set some boundaries on your gaming behavior.”
Mom Lori Cohen said she watches to make sure her son doesn’t skip meals or activities. Jacob is in the marching band and pays close attention to academics. “So I try to find the balance between relating to real humans and real life,versus keeping track of him behind his computer.”
Cohen said now that families are more aware of potential mental health issues they can take precautions. “If he knows to watch, what the dangers are, to watch out for, I am hopeful that he can police his own behavior so that he can stay healthy.”
The WHO points out it’s not just teens who can be addicted to gaming. Some older people whose jobs and families have been up-need by video games could meet the new criteria and gaming disorder.