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PRO: Can video games lead to mental illness?

By JR Ortega
Feb. 13, 2011 at 10:05 p.m.
Updated Feb. 12, 2011 at 8:13 p.m.


The issueCan playing too many video games lead to mental illness? A study in "Pediatrics," the official journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics, seems to think so. It found that people who are already addicted to playing video games are at higher risk for anxiety disorder and depression. Some gamers say that's not the case and experts in the gaming field explain that games can be helpful to society.

Stephanie Bassano has seen food, drugs, gambling, frivolous spending, all correlate in one way - they can all be addictions.

The licensed dependency counselor at Mid-Coast Family Services deals with all types of addictions but has not dealt much with video game addiction, which a new study cites can lead to, or coexist with other mental illnesses.

"They become so enthralled with it," Bassano said about any type of addiction. "Tolerance builds up."

The study published in "Pediatrics," the official journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics, cites that while playing video games is not pathological when started, it can become pathological but social, occupational and familial life is affected.

The study found that pathological gaming was not just a symptom of problems like depression, anxiety and social phobias, but contributes to those problems and could lessen those problems if the person's gaming method was not pathological.

"A lot of people who are addicted won't admit how addicted they are," Bassano said.

Lane Johnson, a licensed professional counselor and director of clinical programs and services at Gulf Bend Center, said the key to the study is that its looking at pathological gaming, not just gaming.

Johnson identified with the study's finding in that the pathology of gaming and mental illness is longitudinal.

One does not necessarily become a pathological gamer if they have mental illness, but vice versa; those with mental illness are more liable to become pathological.

Pathological gaming doesn't necessarily cause other mental problems, but it can make them worse, he added.

"Pathological gaming already has the gamer in trouble because the gaming activity has become detrimental," he said.

Balancing the virtual reality with true reality can help.

The truth about whether or not there are harmful effects from playing video games comes down to each individual, Johnson said.

"You can't determine objectively the pro or con of gaming without subjectively identifying the condition of the person," Johnson said. "Responsible gaming is accomplished by making responsible judgement about all of the variables; the player, the game and the players support systems."

Related: CON: Could video games lead to mental illness: Video gaming technology does more good than harm

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