DSM V has added “Internet Gaming Disorder” (IGD) to its list of mental maladies. But is it a real addiction and is it necessarily a chronic condition that needs intervention? One recent study says “No.”
According to a study of 5,777 American adults published in PeerJ, (https://peerj.com/articles/3838/?utm_source=MIT+Technology+Review&utm_campaign=5e7f9142c5-The_Download&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_997ed6f472-5e7f9142c5-153805949) IGD should be looked upon in a nuanced way and most especially should not be assumed to be unhealthful, especially longitudinally. The authors cite studies that tend to support that IGD is “a possible psychiatric condition” (p. 1) needing intervention, but cite others that contradict this conclusion and urge caution. Their own work relies on three factors of mental health: autonomy, competence, and relatedness, and how these are or are not regulated by IGD.
Quoting from the authors’ Discussion section,
In line with predictions we found that the IGD criteria proposed in the DSM-5 (American Psychiatric Association, 2013) were, on an individual and continuous basis, moderately stable over a six month period. Contrary to what we expected, however, none of the participants meeting diagnostic thresholds at the start did so at the end of the study, and only three participants reported more than four IGD criteria at the start and six months later. These findings, that very few, if any, individuals who meet the proposed diagnostic thresholds over time mirror those derived from other large-scale representative studies of problematic gaming research (Festl, Scharkow & Quandt, 2013; Scharkow, Festl & Quandt, 2014). These unexpected results do not support a theoretical framing of Internet Gaming Disorder as a chronic psychiatric condition akin to substance abuse disorder as some have argued (e.g., Hasin et al., 2013; Petry et al., 2014); rather, the constellation of results we uncovered provide evidence that dysregulated gaming is a nuanced phenomenon that requires careful conceptualisation, and one which can be fruitfully studied from a motivational perspective (Deci & Ryan, 2000; Griffiths et al., 2016; Kardefelt-Winther, 2014b)….Also contrary to our expectations, we did not find that IGD had an observable direct effect on health over time. Although this finding is inconsistent with some results derived from small-scale convenience samples, it is in line with the only other representative longitudinal work which suggests mixed or non-significant lagged effects linking problematic gaming with life satisfaction and perceived success of gamers (Scharkow, Festl & Quandt, 2014). (Weinstein, Przybylski & Murayama, 2017, pp. 15-16)
This is not to say that IGD is illusory or that it might not have any long-term ill effects. The authors point out that in a minority of cases, IGD can have a negative influence on overall health, but generally in cases where other disorders are also in play.
In summary, the overall thrust is clearly cautionary and tends to align more with my own conclusions after a review of a number of studies (see my article on DSM V and bias in Research Gate), that psychiatric diagnoses are too often misconstrued labels for what would be better seen as normal challenges in development that tend to be worked out by the principals involved as they mature.