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As of June 18, 2018, the World Health Organization (WHO) has determined that gaming disorder will be included on the organization’s International Classification of Diseases.
The idea that spending hours playing games on the computer can turn into an addiction is difficult for many people to accept. However, most addiction professionals agree that gaming addiction can ruin lives, and that recognition of gaming disorder as a disease will make it easier for people to receive much-needed treatment.
For several decades, it has been widely accepted that addiction is a chronic, relapsing disease that triggers very real changes in the brain, thus causing compulsive substance use.
In recent years, the idea of certain behaviors as addictive has gained acceptance because the brain reacts to behaviors much the same way it responds to drugs and alcohol. Most members of the scientific community agree that addiction isn’t dependent on a substance, but has more to do with release of chemicals in the areas of the brain that govern motivation and reward.
Gamers can become dependent to the point that the behavior interferes with their lives. Cravings to repeat the behavior can be so strong that some people experience withdrawal symptoms not unlike those associated with withdrawal from drugs and alcohol.
Some experts are concerned about use of the term “addiction,” when it comes to gaming, because many gamers are children and teens. They reason that playing computer games doesn’t always result in addiction, and that many kids are able to enjoy gaming without negative consequences.
In fact, learning specialists advise that computer games are not only fun, but can be positive learning tools. There is concern that parents may overreact, taking games away and prompting kids to turn to more dangerous activities, including drug and alcohol use.
An increasing number of drug and alcohol treatment centers and rehabs now offer treatment for behavioral addictions, including gaming.
Treatment for a gaming addiction is very similar to treatment for other addictions and involves individual counseling with skilled therapists. Many rehabs also offer group treatment with other gamers. Family therapy is important, especially for youth and adolescents.
Frequently, treatment also addresses anxiety, depression and anger management, as well as relapse prevention and strategies for coping with stress.