Video gaming disorder and the warning for gamers, parents

NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) - According to the Centers for Disease Control, more children spend five or more hours a day playing video games than kids who do not play video games at all.

But before labeling someone a video game addict, LSU Health Clinical Associate Professor of Psychiatry Rick Costa said there are positives to toying with video games, such as helping people with social anxiety communicate with others and even depression.

"It doesn't necessarily mean you're addicted if you like video games," Costa said. "People that play video games, it can improve their sustained attention even improve their visual and motor skills..But with that said anything that you take to the extreme could potentially be not so good."

Last year, the World Health Organization classified excessive video gaming a disorder.

There is no real time limit someone has to play video games to consider them addicted, according to Costa. It is a case by case basis.

Games can keep track of playing time with some players logging 24 days or more of total play time for one specific game.

But when someone makes video games a priority over things like work, school or even eating, it could lead to an addiction or disorder.

"You see weight loss. You'll see health problem. If you're not going to the bathroom, you might see kidney problems. So these are things that folks will neglect and they get so focused on the game that they really almost forget that they're in a body and with that comes real problems and how the mind and body really are connected," he said.

Another way to spot a possible addiction is a player's extreme passion about gaming or if they get a game taken away and they react in dramatic fashion.

But Costa warns parents need to practice what they preach before telling a child to reign in their time gaming by monitoring their own time spent on cell phones and watching TV, which can also be a form of addiction.

"We have to be careful in terms how we're presenting information to kids so that we don't come across as hypocrites. If you want to send a message that it's about finding a healthy balance, (parents) need to model for (children) what a healthy balance looks like," Costa said.

However, there is the emerging number of people who play video games professionally earning tens of thousands of dollars all by playing a game for hours at a time.

"That's their job, but they are outliers. When you're talking about the Drew Brees(s), that's a very small segment of the population. There's thousands and thousands of other kids that aspire to do that but never get there regardless of how good they are, same thing with gaming. If we are talking about gaming superstars, they're functioning at a different level and it's working for them," Costa said.

Costa said one very clear way to spot a video gaming disorder is when someone says they play the game to escape reality.

He also said if a child is completing all of his or her daily tasks and getting good grades in school and still spending hours playing video games, a parent should not be overly concerned and just monitor their child's playing time.

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