Addressing Gaming Addiction Amongst Australians
Addiction to gaming, in which the activity becomes so extensive that it significantly impairs the individual’s daily life and activities is now a widely recognised addiction disorder. Since June 2018 the World Health Organistion (WHO) have now recognised and designated it as a mental health condition** that requires treatment in the same way as alcohol or substance addiction. Gaming Addiction in Australia is no exception.
The WHO states that when a behaviour pattern has normally been evident for at least 12 months and is of sufficient severity to result in significant impairment in personal, family, social, educational, occupational or other important areas of life function, gaming addiction as a psychological disorder may be diagnosed.
The numbers are staggering, and the consequences are becoming very serious for the individuals and for society. As Dr John Saunders, Director of Wesley Hospital’s Drug & Alcohol programme comments “a significant proportion of people involved in online gaming now have closed-in lives. Their focus on gaming is such that they often do little else”
Gaming Addiction- The Symptoms
Gaming addicts can and do experience the same symptoms as those of substance or alcohol addicts – from sullenness, mood swings, insomnia, anger issues to aggressive behaviour, even violence. When the disorder reaches a serious level, the addict loses all distinction between day and night – body clocks are skewed and natural physiological functions become affected
As Dr Saunders has warned there are reports of people playing online games non-stop for stretches of up to 100 hours. Sitting for such long periods can cause thrombosis in their leg and pelvic veins, which in turn can lead to fatal cardiac arrest.
This is backed up by reports of gaming-related fatalities in Taiwan, South Korea, China, U.K. and the United States.
The increasingly popular and widespread video game Fortnite has even been cited as the cause of over 200 divorces.
Widespread Gaming Activity in Australia
The Digital-Australia-2018 report shows that 67% of all Australians regularly play video games.
Long considered the preserve of young men, a staggering 46% of players are nowadays female.
Up to 77% of players are over 18 years old, indeed the average age of gamers is 34. The older generation is also heavily involved with up to 43% of over-65 years olds being classed as regular gamers.
The average time spent playing games is 89 minutes per day.
A Serious Business
In 2018, Australians spent over $4.1bn on games and gaming hardware.
In the same year, industry revenues in the United States grew almost 20% to US$43.4bn (AU$63.1bn)
So it’s hardly surprising that industry lobbyists are fighting back and are distinctly unhappy about the classification of gaming as a psychological and addiction disorder.
The international Entertainment Software Association (ESA) representing associations in Europe and New Zealand as well as Australia are pushing the WHO to “re-think” it’s stance on gaming.
In a recent statement, the ESA said that “it (the WHO classification) is not based on sufficiently robust evidence to justify inclusion in one of the WHO’s most important norm-setting tools”.
While the concerns around the addictiveness of gaming are nothing new – think slot machines, sports betting and casino games, video games are now coming under increasing scrutiny for what some observers are saying is an intentional effort to make the games more addictive.
An analysis conducted by researchers at the University of Adelaide last year singled out online games as a form of “psychological entrapment” that “enable endless spending behaviours and employ systems that disguise or withhold the long-term cost of micro-transactions”
Not Universally Accepted
The ESA also states that, “The WHO is an esteemed organisation and it’s guidance needs to be based on regular, inclusive and transparent reviews backed by independent experts”
The American Psychiatric Association (APA) themselves are not fully convinced of the recent WHO classification, citing a lack of sufficient strong evidence and research. They are concerned that problem gaming may be a symptom of other mental health conditions, rather than a unique condition in its own right.
Many gamers cite tangible benefits derived from their gaming. These include mental benefits such as boosting thinking skills, problem-solving, strategic planning, even fighting dementia as well as physical benefits such as improved dexterity and mobility and reduction in stress levels
In the workplace, games have been used to improve work knowledge, health & safety awareness and 71% of teachers say that games can be an effective resource for teaching children.
And to further add confusion to the debate on the negative aspects of gaming, a recent study by the Oxford Internet Institute has refuted the long-held assumptions of the links between violent video games and aggressive or violent behaviour in real life.
When Things Go Too Far
So when does a simple, pleasurable past-time turn into a dangerous, potentially fatal, addiction?
When even the categorisation of the disorder is disputed, it can be difficult for professionals and experts to agree on what actually constitutes a problem.
Yet seasoned addiction counsellors such as the psychologists at Miracles Asia are well aware of the consequences of excessive gaming, placing it on the spectrum of impulse control disorders, linked with depression, and identified as a trigger for cyclical degradation of friendships, sleep patterns, mood stability and depression.
Despite the vast numbers of people around the world playing games, only a small minority are actually expected to fall into the WHO criteria for addiction. Assuming the same addiction rates per population as other common addictions anywhere between 5,000 to 16,5000 Australians could potentially be diagnosed with this disorder.
If you or a loved one are concerned, and see established behaviours for over 12 months that include losing control of your life to gaming, prioritising gaming to the extent that it takes precedence over other activities and interests, and continuing to game despite obvious negative effects on work, school, family life, health, hygiene, relationships, finances or social relationships, then you may well be suffering from gaming addiction disorder. Contact Miracles Asia today to have a confidential discussion with one of our trained counsellors.
Please Contact Us to arrange a confidential discussion about how we can help.
*Representatives of the World Health Organisation (WHO) have affirmed the inclusion of ‘gaming disorder’ in the 11th edition of its International Classification of Diseases and Related Health Problems (ICD) manual, which defines the disorder as “a pattern of gaming behaviour characterised by impaired control over gaming”.The new ICD will be adopted in 2022
**The classified disorder focuses on gaming only, it doesn’t include other digital behaviours such as overuse of the internet, online gambling, social media, or smartphones.