Dr. Anthony M. Bean- a psychologist from Fort Worth, has recently spoken out about video game addiction.
The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders version five (DSM-V), a manual used by psychologists to categorize and diagnose disorders, lists video game addiction as a “condition for further study”. This means that video game addiction could be included as a diagnosable disorder in a future edition of the DSM but Dr. Bean, along with three co-authors, published a paper in the American Psychological Association’s journal Professional Psychology: Research and Practice titled Video Game Addiction: The Push To Pathologize Video Games to warn against the dangers of diagnosing video game addiction.
The article presents the argument that not enough viable research has been done on the subject to truly identify video game addiction and provide cohesive criteria for diagnosis.
In a recent interview with Polygon, Dr. Bean said, “We don’t know what video game addiction is… The psychology and medical fields took the concept of addiction, whether it’s substance abuse or anything like that, and just switched it out with video games. The thinking was, ‘Oh, it’s a form of addiction. It’s like any other addiction.’ But it’s not the same.” He then went on to equate the current definition of video game addiction to something as simple as reading a book that is just too good to put down, asking the question, “Why isn’t that a form of addiction?”
Dr. Bean and the three other psychologists concluded that the moral dilemma surrounding video games is the reason why video game addiction is being rushed into the DSM without proper research. “We raise the potential that video game addiction is a ‘thing’ for the psychiatric and medical community less because empirical research has demonstrated a clear foundation but rather because video game addiction is a ‘thing’ in the general public’s eye.”
Video game addiction has become a topic of much controversy in the United States to the point that special camps have been created to “unplug” video game addicts and rehabilitate them.
There is also a risk that video game addiction could be mislabeled. Dr. Bean offered an alternative reason for why someone would chose to play video games rather than engage with others face-to-face, “Maybe that person’s anxious, maybe the person’s actually depressed and using video games as a coping mechanism, or a mechanism with which to deal with some personal stress in the world.” Anxiety is a common mental illness, affecting 18% of adults in the U.S.
Meanwhile many studies have found that video games make excellent therapeutic tool. One study done in 2015 by Michigan State University used a specially designed video game to treat students suffering from anxiety and found that the game lessened the student’s anxiety and increased their focus. In fact, according to Dr. Bean’s Psychology Today profile, he uses video games as a type of “play therapy”, a technique used mostly in treating children to help them with issues such as anger management, trauma and grief. A technique that could become taboo in if video game addiction becomes a diagnosable disorder in the DSM.