Gaming Disorder

Ask a Doc: Is my child at risk for gaming disorder?

Q: What is gaming disorder, and how will I know if my child is affected?

A: According to the World Health Organization, people with gaming disorder routinely prioritize gaming over other more favorable activities in spite of the possibility of serious negative consequences. While gaming, a person’s brain can respond similarly to the way it does to addictive substances, stimulating an “endorphin high,” which provides an incentive to continue the activity.

Excessive gaming can lead to poor hygiene, fatigue, headaches, carpal tunnel syndrome, mood swings, neck or back pain, reckless behavior, sleeplessness, declining grades in school, or a lack of interest in previously enjoyed activities. Reduced socialization with friends or signs of depression and anxiety may also result.

If parents suspect their child may have gaming disorder, an examination by a doctor is important. A physician will look for patterns of gaming that cause impairment in personal, family, social, educational, and other areas of life over long periods of time. While the condition is very real, it affects only a small percentage of the total number of people who regularly participate in video gaming. If your child has just recently become interested in video games, he or she likely isn’t affected by gaming addiction.

There are some simple steps parents can take to lessen the risk of gaming disorder: create and enforce screen time limits, ensure that your child is getting enough sleep, and help your child wind down and create a bedtime routine by cutting off-device usage a few hours before bedtime.

If you’re concerned your child or young adult is developing tendencies of gaming disorder, talk with your pediatrician about your concerns.

— John Heise, M.D., a specialist in adolescent medicine, Kennedy Outpatient Center at Children’s Hospital at Erlanger.


First seen: Chattanooga Times Free Press