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Internet Gaming Disorder, Are you the one?

Games have existed to entertain us since times immemorial. Videogames in particular became famous in the 70’s and have changed form vividly ever since. Tetris, Super Mario, Contra were a few of the most popular games in the 90s. With the advent of basic mobile phones (i.e. not-so-smart phones) we all were hooked onto Snakes for a while. And with the smartphones in play, games like Candycrush, Subway Surfers have made way into everyone’s pockets & hearts.

2016, the year of Pokémon Go. Not only is Pokémon Go the newest trend to hit the technological and gaming world, it is a game set to internet-gaming-disorderenhance one’s current perception of reality by getting people out of their homes, on to the streets. The question is– are you playing? If the answer is a big yes, you may at times begin to feel that you may be addicted to these games. And if not, you certainly may know someone who is.

Internet Gaming disorder (IGD) is a condition in which one maybe excessively playing Internet games. These could be multiplayer games, online games. Is it a normal act? Is it a disorder? Well, currently no one can diagnose you as being a game addict, but there is a potential that in future, you might. Currently as psychiatrists, we diagnose individuals with IGD.

Internet Gaming disorder is classified in the appendix of DSM-5 (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders), that is sort of a bible of all mental illnesses. As the criteria for diagnosis are presently under further study, it would be worthwhile to see how you reply to the following questions:

Q1. Do you have an overwhelming preoccupation with internet games like Pokémon Go? Yes, often No Sometimes
Q2. Do you feel irritable, anxious or sad when you are unable to play your favorite internet game due to various reasons (e.g. No internet connection, someone nagging you etc.) – These are considered withdrawal symptoms Yes, often No Sometimes
Q3.Each time you wish to play for longer duration, just to get the same amount of enjoyment &exhilaration (development of Tolerance) Yes, often No Sometimes
Q4. There have been many unsuccessful attempts to control self from playing for long hours? Yes, often No Sometimes
Q5. Nothing else seems interesting, other than playing video games, leading to a significant loss of interest in other activities Yes, often No Sometimes
Q6.Despite knowing the ill effects of excessive internet games, continuing to play excessively. Yes, often No Sometimes
Q7. Have you ever lied to another person regarding the amount of time spent gaming? Yes, often No Sometimes
Q8.Do you often play internet games to escape or relieve stress orbad mood?  Yes, often No Sometimes
Q9.Have you ever skipped an important task/job/educational opportunity due to continuous gaming?  Yes, often No Sometimes

If you answered more than fifty percent questions with a big yes, there maybe a matter of concern at hand and you may need to see a specialist.There is often also presentation of common health problems. It may vary from headaches, watering from eyes, cramping of fingers, digestive problems, sleep problems (too little sleep from constantly playing, to daytime sleepiness)

The good news is, that we as specialists do not consider all pleasurable things as evil. Studies have shown that playing some games helps – improve memory, hand-to-eye coordination and attention. Certain educational games can also be used to teach children new concepts. At the same time, violent games may desensitize children against violence and have dangerous repercussions.

After Internet addiction, mobile phone addiction, Facebook addiction, and most recently selfie addiction, soon we will find newspapers filled with incidences of reckless behaviour associated with Pokémon Go. Ranging from funny to plain bizarre. Infact the newspapers are already flooded with reports of individuals venturing into dangerous, or prohibited locations in a quest to find their Pokémon. Incidences of crimes, traffic violations and injuries have increased. So next time you are crossing the road, and see your next Pokémon across the road, take a minute to look up.

In the end, it always rounds up to a fine balance in life. Work hard,play hard.

Inputs by Dr Era Dutta, Consultant Psychiatrist, SL Raheja Fortis Hospital, Mahim


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