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According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), a gaming addiction or disorder is described as a pattern of gaming behaviour which leads to impaired control over gaming. There is an increased priority given to gaming over other activities to the extent that it takes precedence over other interests and daily activities, despite the occurrence of negative consequences. The characteristics assumed significance recently when a 16-year-old boy in Lucknow allegedly shot his mother dead as she stopped him from playing PUBG, an online game.
Eminent psychiatrist Dr Samir Parikh tells Health Shots that gaming is a behavioural addiction, which means the nature of addiction is the same as for people who are addicted to any substance. So when a person is addicted to gaming, he/she experiences a ‘high’ similar to that of substance abuse.
The expert cited the case of the Lucknow boy, who hid his mother’s dead body inside a room for two days before informing his father, as something that “cannot be commented on easily” as there can be several reasons behind it. “We need to understand that what children see in their environment has a huge impact. So, the impact of gaming too needs to be evaluated.”
Not to forget, the Covid-19 pandemic has increased the time duration the kids are spending on their screens, be it for studies or recreational purposes, like playing games.
When a person starts indulging in it too much, it starts affecting their life. Since it involves sitting at a particular place for a long time, the outdoor activity becomes less, which hampers social life.
“The gaming addict might start to avoid friends and social gatherings, which causes the overall quality of life to go down drastically,” explained Dr Parikh, Director of the Department of Mental Health and Behavioural Sciences, Fortis Healthcare.
“It needs to be seen as an addiction when the person spends more time playing games, is not able to control it and has withdrawal symptoms. That’s why it is important that we all are aware that it’s a problem.”
If someone is addicted to games and starts experiencing symptoms, the following needs to be done, as suggested by Dr Parikh:
For a parent, if the child is spending more time playing games at the cost of other more important things like studies and sports, it must be a cause of concern. It can impact their quality of life, both at present and in the future. Hence, parents must encourage children to balance their life and give importance to things and people around them. They should make them understand that leading a balanced life and playing games in between is okay. However, if gaming becomes the fulcrum around which everything else is surrounding, that’s when the problem arises.
While counselling both children and parents can help, there needs to be a way that the gaming industry functions as a whole in order to not hamper the lives of young children.