Compulsive Gaming

I would like to voice my support for Dr Block’s reluctance to label compulsive computer gaming an addiction in his article “Pathological Computer Game Use” (Psychiatric Times, March 2007, page 49). This is almost as refreshing as his expressed willingness to learn from his patients what this complex activity actually means to them.

When a patient complains that he or she feels “addicted” to an activity we should take this seriously. When a significant other uses the term it may be to attack or criticise. For professionals to label this activity “computer addiction” or “Internet addiction” is like referring to heroin addiction as syringe addiction. While there may sometimes be metaphorical utility in application of the concept of addiction to gaming or sexual gratification for which a computer or the Internet is litltle more than a conduit, the notion of  addiction to an inanimate object, or even a network of such objects, betrays a lack of appreciation of both the term “addiction” and the behavior in question. Undeniably compulsive gaming can have negative consequences, but success in this activity may be associated with development of complex skills, at least some of which can be transferred to real-life activities. In addition to the computer's role in the psychological life of the individual, a complete picture will only be revealed when its role in the family or social network is explored.

Dismissing compulsive gaming as an addiction serves neither patient nor psychotherapist.