Video game addiction
The man was 29 and newly discharged from the military but not yet working. He spent all day every day, for almost two months, compulsively playing Candy Crush on his smartphone. He was so addicted to the video game that he played right through the severe pain of rupturing a tendon in his thumb.
Andrew Doan, MD, PhD, is a trained eye surgeon, father of three, a professor — and a recovering video game addict. Astonishingly he made it through medical school at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine while playing a real-time strategy game like StarCraft for 7 to 14 hours a day. He’d started gaming at the uncharacteristically old age of 24 and got married a year later. Unhinged by lack of sleep and irritability when not gaming, he freely admits, “I was abusive to my wife,” Dr. Doan says.
While video game use is problematic for some teens, researchers say addiction is rare.
Video game addiction is a popular term for a compulsive, psychologically and socially dysfunctional pattern of video game playing. While the condition has no official standing in the U.S., it is designated for review by the American Psychiatric Association, which creates the country’s preeminent addiction/mental health guidelines. In a study published in 2013 in the journal Addiction, a German research team set out to accurately estimate the frequency of video game addiction in both teenage and adult populations. The members of this team concluded that only a small number of people appear to have symptoms of the condition.
For those of us who lived through the 1970s we can still remember when video games first made their appearance on the scene. Games like Pac-Man were table-sized consoles that required pockets loaded with coins if you intended to play more than one or two friendly games. For most of us an occasional game was plenty – but even back then there were some who spent hours seated at the consoles or in the video arcade.
In Australia, a recent online poll of 2,000 video game players found that one in 10 gamers showed signs of addicted behavior, prompting a Sydney University professor and gaming addiction expert to call for the establishment of Australia’s first video game addiction rehabilitation center.