World Health Organization Adds Video Game Addiction to Its List of Disorders

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On June 18th, the World Health Organization (WHO) officially added Video Game Addiction to its publication, The International Classification of Diseases (ICD). While the United States uses the ICD for medical conditions, psychiatric conditions are diagnosed using the criteria in the Diagnostic & Statistical Manual (DSM) published by the American Psychiatric Association. For now, Video Game Addiction is listed as a concern but not as a disorder in the DSM.

While playing video games can be fun and even provide learning opportunities for kids and adults, like anything else in life you can have “too much of a good thing.” Video games become a problem when someone lacks control over how often and how long they play. Another indication that they are a problem is when the activity crowds out other life interests and daily activities. When gaming continues to increase even when it results in negative consequences including not completing homework, not spending time with friends and family, or difficulty sleeping, it meets the third of the three criteria necessary to support making the diagnosis.

It should be noted that kids and teens, as well as adults, may not spend all their screen time on gaming but excessive total screen time, in general, is considered a health hazard although not yet classified as a disorder. Again, watching videos, texting, emailing, visiting social media sites, and chatting are enjoyable and useful activities; however, spending more than a few hours per day results in psychological and health issues.

Those of us who provide mental health care for children and adolescents are seeing a growing number of kids negatively affected by screen time. It can lead to social withdrawal, anxiety, poor grades, reduced sleep, weight gain, insufficient physical fitness, and depression (even suicide due to the depression). Unfortunately, when parents attempt to get kids to cut back, verbal and sometimes physical aggression can result. If your child or adolescent is showing any of these signs, you should seek help from your child’s primary care physician, a school psychologist or counselor, or mental health professional. Reset Your Child’s Brain: A Four-Week Plan to End Meltdowns, Raise Grades, and Boost Social Skills by Reversing the Effects of Electronic Screen-Time is an evidence-based approach to detoxing kids and teens from screen time.

Screen time by kids and adults has been steadily increasing. A highly recommended approach to reducing a pattern resulting in negative outcomes is to replace it with habits that result in positive outcomes. In a family, the best method is to make reducing screen time a family affair, meaning that all members of the family work together to cut back on screen time and engage in positive family activities as well as encourage each other to find better uses for their time individually.

In The Well-Balanced Family, I provide practical suggestions on how to disconnect so you can reconnect, have fun and grow together as a family. By implementing the recommendations, you can improve communication, connection, physical fitness, sleep, academic achievement, cooperation, while having fun and enjoying life in general. The book provides easy to follow suggestions and tools to achieve goals and enjoy the benefits. It also provides referrals to other sources of helpful information and useful tools.

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