Emotional and Mental Health

Internet Addiction Disorder and Gaming Disorder

Written by
Dr. Vasantha K S
and medically reviewed by iCliniq medical review team.

Published on Jun 23, 2018 and last reviewed on Jan 28, 2019   -  3 min read



The age of the internet, apart from giving us reasons to cheer, has also given us many things to worry about. As parents, here is what you must know about these new age disorders and how you can steer your child in the right direction.

Internet Addiction Disorder and Gaming Disorder

From education to entertainment, there is certainly no area in life that has not been changed by the advent of the internet. It has not only made life simpler but also very fast-paced and instant.

At the same time, the worrying trend is how dependent it has made us for everyday things. It has consequently given rise to a new set of mental health disorders, including, but not limited to internet addiction disorder, online gaming addiction, online shopping addiction, and online gambling addiction.

Internet Addiction Disorder

Gone are the days when the medical community would classify addiction based on an individual's dependence on a substance of abuse. Even the urge to stay online at all times is now considered an addiction.

What Is the Risk?

  1. It can affect the day-to-day life and thought process of the person.
  2. It can lead to mood swings and mood instabilities.
  3. It hampers creativity and imagination.
  4. It can lead to social isolation and withdrawal.
  5. Put the person's relationship with partner, family, and friends at risk.
  6. The person can start living a fake life.
  7. It can lead to reckless behavior and spending a lot more money than you rightfully should be.

Internet Gaming Disorder

The increasing prevalence of digital access has caused another concern, especially among children and adolescents known as internet gaming disorder.

The condition is still under research and its real impact is still being studied. But, some things are certain. Addiction to online games (the major threat being multiplayer role-play games), does cause developmental problems and affects children's development of social skills.

There have been instances of severe impairment, lack of cognitive functions, and mental distress. In spite of the name being internet gaming disorder, both online and offline gaming of high frequency are equally capable of making your child a victim of this disorder.

What Is the Risk?

  1. Depression.
  2. Academic non-performance.
  3. Worsening of relationship with parents and peers.
  4. Aggressive behavior and violent streaks.
  5. Living in a fantasy world imagining themselves to be the online avatar they wish to portray themselves as.
  6. Suicidal tendencies.

While the disorder itself is in the research stage, treatment options and success rates are still unclear. Researchers are also trying to ascertain who is most at risk and what are the types of games that are associated with maximum risk.

Diagnostic Criteria

The criteria for both internet addiction disorder and gaming disorder are quite similar and hence have been listed together. Meeting any five of these is understood to be the criteria for diagnosis.

  1. Preoccupation with the internet or gaming, planning for the next possible opportunity to go online or play.
  2. Building tolerance, that is, a need to spend more amount of time to achieve the same level of satisfaction.
  3. Attempts at trying to curtail internet usage or stop playing online games have repeatedly failed.
  4. Withdrawal symptoms of irritability and depression when unable to access the internet or play the next level of the game.
  5. Staying online at all times or playing during all free hours, giving up all other activities.
  6. Putting at risk a job or relationship to use the internet or continue playing.
  7. Deceiving family about the actual number of hours spent online or gaming.
  8. Using internet or gaming as a means to escape reality and elevate mood.

What You Can Do?

As a parent, you first need to understand and realize the level of impact this has on your child and his/her future. Here are some things you can do to ensure your child does not fall for this trap.

  • There is an increased need to be aware of your child's pattern of internet usage and media exposure.
  • Create opportunities for outdoor play and social interaction with peers.
  • Allow expression of creativity through hobbies and free play at home through various structured and non-structured activities.
  • Set household rules about media and gaming time and set limits. Use a stopwatch if necessary.
  • Adult supervision of content wherever recommended.
  • Schedule screen time as spaced away from bedtime as practically possible.
  • Discourage playing in the confines of a bedroom with handheld devices.
  • Ensure regular family interaction and bonding time.
  • Model appropriate usage to your kids by showing restraint and discipline. If you abuse digital platforms yourself, no amount of coaxing would deter your child.
  • If necessary, you can take help from your family physician or your child's pediatrician to educate your child about the harmful effects of overdoing screen time.

If you even have the slightest doubt that your child needs help, it is worthwhile to pay attention to your instincts and take the next step by consulting a mental health professional at the earliest because the sooner you act, the better the outcome.

For more information consult a psychologist counsellor online --> https://www.icliniq.com/ask-a-doctor-online/psychologist-counsellor

Last reviewed at:
28 Jan 2019  -  3 min read




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