According to APP Publication's recent report on problematic gaming, 90% of American teens spend a ‘significant’ time playing video games, or ‘gaming.’ With this many teens spending their time gaming, an increasing number of parents are concerned that their child’s playing habits may become detrimental to their overall quality of life.
What’s more, these concerned parents may have a reason to be concerned: The American Psychiatric Association recently included problematic gaming disorder(also known as, Internet gaming disorder (IGD), due to most games requiring access to the internet in order to play) in their Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders 5th Edition (DSM-5).
What is Problematic Gaming Disorder (IGD)?
As defined by The American Psychiatric Association, problematic gaming disorder is defined as “persistent and recurrent use of the internet to engage in games, often with other players, leading to clinically significant impairment or distress.”
According to experts familiar with gaming, “there is now a considerable amount of research literature” that suggests some users “develop dysfunctional symptoms that can result in severe detrimental effects on functional and social areas of life.” Once these dysfunctional effects of gaming can be clinically observed in their behavior, the teen can officially be diagnosed with Problematic Gaming Disorder (IGD).
(NOTE: The American Psychiatric further specifies: In spite of its name, IGD does not require that an individual uses the internet as both online or offline games can result in addiction.)
The Prevalence of Problematic Gaming Disorder in Teens
The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders 5th Edition (DSM-5) was used by authors of several different studies to conclude that as many as 8.5% of American teen gamers met the six of the eleven criteria of IGD diagnosis.
After considering the fact that nearly every American teenager plays video games, that number of 9 percent becomes all the more concerning.
Treatment for Problematic Gaming Disorder
While there are no “randomized, well-controlled studies for the treatment of IGD,” researchers stipulate that “iterations of cognitive behavioral therapy” and in extreme cases, even residential treatment, may, in fact, be the most effective route for parents of teens addicted to gaming to take.
How Family First AS Treats Problematic Gaming
In order to work effectively with problematic gaming, it is important to not get lost in trying to extinguish the negative behaviors and symptoms but to address the underlying issues that are fueling these behaviors. If we focus too much on the symptoms we risk further alienating the teens and deepening the guilt and shame that is often already there. Instead, we look to what is lacking for the adolescent in his or her life, the underlying emotions, and needs that have been unaddressed, and that are finding outlets through compulsive behaviors like gaming.
In the field of mental and behavioral health, we refer to this approach as “Trauma-Informed,” meaning that we focus on the interrelation between unresolved early childhood trauma and later symptoms. This approach seeks to truly understand the inner world of our teen clients, not labeling them as wrong, bad or sick, but understanding that their behaviors – even as dysfunctional as they may be – are attempting to communicate a message to their environment.