A new manual for mental disorders is slated to be released in May and video-game addiction experts are hoping for a new addition.
The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders doesn’t currently list video-game addiction in its list of disorders, but tech-addiction expert Hilarie Cash said that needs to change.
Cash runs Restart in Seattle, Wash., one of the few known internet and video game addiction rehabilitation centres in North and South America.
"People’s lives completely fall apart, and there are people who die from it," said Cash.
Addiction can start early
Winnipegger Cristian Valesquez, 18, used to be addicted to gaming.
"It’s rewarding, right? You get this pump and then it fades and you miss it and you want it back," said Valesquez.
"It’s like a cycle."
He began gaming when he got his first Nintendo.
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When he shifted to gaming online, he saw major success. He was even sponsored by a gaming company at age 12.
"If I couldn’t play, it was like profound boredom," he said.
That’s when it turned from a hobby into a habit for Valesquez.
"I was generally playing, at the very peak, six to ten hours a day," he said.
As a result, his grades slid and he began to replace his real life friends with ones that were online.
"Even if you don’t want to play, you feel a responsibility to go online. It’s like a community," said Valesquez.
Cash said those are classic signs of video-game addiction.
"Most people understand that gambling can become, can develop into a serious addiction, so it’s like that," said Cash.
She said the most addictive games have a social component and are competitive.
Addiction can be fatal
Video games can be so addictive, according to Cash, that people have died from their use.
Fatal blood clots, death from sleep deprivation and heart attacks have all been reported in addicted gamers.
Though those cases are rare, Cash said gaming addiction is becoming more mainstream.
"I believe it is on the rise, primarily due to smartphones," said Cash.
People with disabilities at increased risk
At increased risk are those with disabilities.
Those with Aspergers or attention-deficit hyper-activity disorder are especially vulnerable to addiction, according to Cash.
Winnipegger Drew Nordman lives with spinal muscular dystrophy and said the video games provide a special outlet for those living with disabilities.
"There’s a lot of things that we can’t do, and when we find something that makes us feel in control, we take it. We abuse it," said Nordman.
Nordman, 24, played video games for five to seven hours a day at the height of his addiction.
"You become the character. You make all the choices. It’s really engrossing and what I find the most satisfying," said Nordman.
He has since overcome his addiction.