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World Health Organization will recognize video game addiction as mental illness




Nintendo's new video game console Switch is displayed at a presentation in Tokyo on Jan. 13, 2017. Nintendo on Jan. 13 unveiled its new Switch game console, which works both at home and on-the-go, as it looks to offset disappointing Wii U sales and go head to head with rival Sony's hugely popular PlayStation 4.
Nintendo's new video game console Switch is displayed at a presentation in Tokyo on Jan. 13, 2017. Nintendo on Jan. 13 unveiled its new Switch game console, which works both at home and on-the-go, as it looks to offset disappointing Wii U sales and go head to head with rival Sony's hugely popular PlayStation 4.
Kazuhiro Nogi/AFP/Getty Images

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Video games can provide hours of entertainment to players, but mental health professionals caution they should be played in moderation. Too much gaming can lead to destructive behavior and a lack of properly connecting with the real world, which is why the World Health Organization announced it will recognize gaming addiction as a mental health disorder next year.

"Gaming addiction, and addiction to media in general, has been overlooked for too long," said Nega Khaefi, an LA-based therapist with experiencing treating gaming addicts. "Playing video games in and of itself is not dysfunctional. It becomes an issue when it begins to impair their ability to function and take care of their sometimes very basic needs."

What causes video game addiction

For some people, the addiction stems from a need to escape -- to not have to be present in their lives because there's just too much pain and chaos. They're basically using the game to numb them and check out.

Video games are very stimulating, and life can rarely provide that level of stimulation. There's lots of dopamine being released when a person is playing video games. Games give people a sense of control and agency that they may struggle to have in their real lives. They can be whatever they want to be. They can live their fantasies in a sense. They can have super powers, their ideal body type, their ideal car. Some people are just really bored in their lives. Their careers or interpersonal relationships are not satisfying.

What gaming addiction can lead to

It can be that the person isn't eating, that they're not sleeping. It can really adversely affect their health if they're sitting sedentary for long periods of time. Some people get dehydrated. If you go on Wikipedia, you can actually see a list of people that have died from video game addiction, if you can believe it.

How video game addiction can be treated

I'll say "Do you feel like you play a lot of video games?" or "How much are you playing? Do you feel like it gets in the way of things for you?" It's kind of a weird subject because it hasn't really been labeled a problem until recently, so people are not recognizing it as such.

We would first examine how much they want to change. And then we would examine the reasons why they're seeking escape maybe or their circumstances that can be worked on and changed. Should there be couples therapy involved in the treatment or families involved in the treatment or family therapy? What are they lacking in their lives? What void are they filling?