Can one person be addicted to video games the way another person might be addicted to a drug?
Psychologists agree that it’s possible to be addicted to behaviors like gambling. There’s still some some debate, though, over whether gaming addiction is similar to other behavioral addictions or whether it’s some other kind of psychological phenomenon. The DSM, a handbook commonly used to diagnose mental health conditions, gives a nod to this uncertainty by calling Internet Gaming Disorder a “condition for further study.”
When we talk about whether something is an addiction, one factor we can look at is craving. People who are addicted to something tend to crave that thing.
This is the angle a team of researchers in China and the United States recently took on the topic of Internet Gaming Disorder. In their study, they asked whether people with the condition crave gaming.
To answer this question, they compared a group of people who met the criteria for Internet Gaming Disorder with a group of people who regularly engaged in recreational gaming but didn’t have signs of a problematic relationship with games.
The researchers showed that people with Internet Gaming Disorder, but not recreational gamers, experienced increases in craving after a session of gaming.
Moreover, being exposed to gaming-related cues led to increased activation in several brain regions for people with Internet Gaming Disorder. Once again, the same was not true for recreational gamers.
These results add evidence for the idea that there are real differences between people who have a problematic relationship with gaming and people who just like gaming a lot. And part of what sets people with Internet Gaming Disorder apart appears to be craving, adding weight to the idea that there is at least some common ground between problematic gaming and other behavioral addictions.
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