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Researchers believe they’ve identified treatment for video game addiction

A German clinical trial believes it has had a breakthrough in the treatment of internet and video game addiction thanks to a new rehabilitation program that moves away from prescription drugs and instead focuses on cognitive behaviour therapy (CBT). The study reports a 70 per cent remission rate and states “rather than wean them off gaming entirely”, the treatment instead seeks “to re-configure the patient’s relationship with gaming as a whole”.

As reported by Vice (thanks, GI.biz), the study – which was conducted from 2012 to 2017 in four outpatient clinics across Germany and Austria – took 143 men and split them randomly into two groups, one which would receive treatment, and another that would act as the control group. Rather than insist on complete abstinence from internet and gaming activities, the study explored the behaviours that led to addiction in the first place and “enable [addcits to control] their behaviour”. 

“It usually starts with a thorough inventory of the patient’s characteristics that are contributing to the development and maintenance of the gaming disorder,” said Kai W. Müller, one of the authors of the study which had been published in JAMA Psychiatry. “The researchers started by educating the patients on the mechanism and effects of video game addiction. Patients kept a personal diary of the triggers that caused them to play games, often focusing on how they felt just before a marathon session, then learned how to take that energy and redirect it.”

“It is important to emphasize that it does not automatically mean you are addicted if you are keen on playing computer games,” Müller added. “It is important to keep in mind that only a minority is developing an addictive behavior towards gaming and other internet activities. On the same hand, it is equally important to take these patients seriously and to accept that they are suffering and in need of help. Anything else would be mere ignorance.”

The World Health Organization (WHO) agreed in May to recognise “gaming disorder” as an illness at the 72nd World Health Assembly. The Entertainment Software Association (ESA) – which opposed the addition – and the WHO met in December to discuss the decision last year to list “gaming disorder” as an official addictive disorder in the 11th International Classification of Diseases (ICD-11) but despite this opposition, the WHO says the decision was based on available evidence and reflected the consensus of experts. Consequently, ICD-11 has now been adopted by the World Health Assembly and will come into effect on January 1st, 2022.

The disorder is described as: a pattern of “persistent or recurrent gaming behaviour, which may be online or offline, manifested by: 1) impaired control over gaming (e.g., onset, frequency, intensity, duration, termination, context); 2) increasing priority given to gaming to the extent that gaming takes precedence over other life interests and daily activities; and 3) continuation or escalation of gaming despite the occurrence of negative consequences”.

About Vikki Blake

It took 15 years of civil service monotony for Vikki to crack and switch to writing about games. She has since become an experienced reporter and critic working with a number of specialist and mainstream outlets in both the UK and beyond.

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