CHICAGO Doctors backed away on Sunday from a
controversial proposal to designate video game addiction as a
mental disorder akin to alcoholism, saying psychiatrists should
study the issue more.
Addiction experts also strongly opposed the idea at a
debate at the American Medical Association's annual meeting.
They said more study is needed before excessive use of
video and online games -- a problem that affects about 10
percent of players -- could be considered a mental illness.
"There is nothing here to suggest that this is a complex
physiological disease state akin to alcoholism or other
substance abuse disorders, and it doesn't get to have the word
addiction attached to it," said Dr. Stuart Gitlow of the
American Society of Addiction Medicine and Mt. Sinai School of
Medicine in New York.
A committee of the influential physicians' group had
proposed video game addiction be listed as a mental disorder in
the American Diagnostic and Statistic Manual of Mental
Disorders, a guide used by the American Psychiatric Association
in diagnosing mental illness.
Such a move would ease the path for insurance coverage of
video game addiction.
Even before debate on the subject began, the committee that
made the proposal backed away from its position, and instead
recommended that the American Psychiatric Association consider
the change when it revises its next diagnostic manual in 5
The psychiatrist group has said if the science warrants, it
could be considered for inclusion in the next diagnostic
manual, which will be published in 2012.
While occasional use of video games is harmless and may
even help with some disorders like autism, doctors said in
extreme cases it can interfere with day-to-day necessities like
working, showering or even eating.
"Working with this problem is no different than working
with alcoholic patients. The same denial, the same
rationalization, the same inability to give it up," Dr. Thomas
Allen of the Osler Medical Center in Towson, Maryland.
Dr. Louis Kraus of the American Academy of Child and
Adolescent Psychiatry and a psychiatrist at Rush University
Medical Center, said it is not yet clear whether video games
"It's not necessarily a cause-and-effect type issue. There
may be certain kids who have a compulsive component to what
they are doing," he said in an interview.
But addictive or not, too much time spent playing video
games takes away from other important activities.
"The more time kids spend on video games, the less time
they will have socializing, the less time they will have with
their families, the less time they will have exercising," Kraus
"They can make up academic deficits, but they can't make up
the social ones," he said.
The AMA committee will consider the testimony and make its
final recommendation to the AMA's 555 voting delegates, who
will vote on the matter later this week.
The Entertainment Software Association, which represents
the $30 billion (15 billion pounds) global video game industry,
said more research is needed before video game addiction should
be categorized as a mental disorder.
(Additional reporting by Scott Hillis in San Francisco)