Is it time to take video game addiction more seriously?

British people suffering from video game addiction will soon have access to a specialist government-run treatment clinic as part of an official response to what is being called an emerging problem.

But should Australia follow suit?

According the Interactive Games and Entertainment Association, two in three Australians are playing video games in 2019.

Almost half of Australian players are female. Graphic: Samuel MacLean.

Video games have become so commonplace that in 2018 the World Health Organisation added internet gaming disorder to the international classification of diseases, but not everyone agrees with this classification.

Writing in the American Journal of Psychiatry, Dr Patrick Markey says internet gaming disorder “is less likely to be expressed by gamers than a gambling disorder is to be expressed by a gambler.”

The same study found that of the people who played video games, only 0.3-1% were likely to be affected by internet gaming disorder.

Given Australia’s gaming population is under 17 million, this means that between 50,000 and 165,000 people could be affected by the disease.

The NHS’s new service aims to treat people between the ages of 13 and 25 who suffer from internet gaming disorder.

There is currently no equivalent service is Australia, but Victoria-based psychotherapist Heidi Gaspar believes there should be.

“It’s a big problem, in particular teenage youth, because there the kids and teens who come and see me,” she said.

Ms Gaspar echoed the belief of the American Psychiatric Association that video game addiction is not an addiction itself but rather an indicator of other mental health problems.

“It’s about targeting what’s underneath the addiction as well because usually addiction means, in my language, if you mention the word addiction it’s linked to childhood trauma.”

Ms Gaspar specialises in cognitive behavioural therapy and says it is vital to implement boundaries as well as emotion regulation strategies to help treat video game addictions.

Symptoms for internet gaming disorder include preoccupation, withdrawal and tolerance. Photo: Samuel MacLean.

Other countries have already introduced policies to reduce video game consumption.

In South Korea, they have what’s known as the Cinderella Law, which prohibits children from playing video games between midnight and 6am.

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