Recognizing the Signs of Computer Addiction

Currently, computer and internet addiction is not a recognized mental health condition in the United States. The latest version of the APA Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (version 5) has now introduced computer gaming addiction (Internet Gaming Disorder) as a possible mental illness and is proposing further study. Regardless, this has been controversial — many clinicians may still be skeptical about its very existence.

Although research support for Computer Addiction as a distinct disorder is slim, parents and significant others of individuals experiencing serious, problematic computer & video gaming excesses seldom need convincing.

Since a proper diagnosis helps guide treatment, we propose a set of diagnostic criteria similar to other addictive behaviors. It differs from others in that it actually factors in the amount of time engaged in computer gaming or related activities.

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Proposed Criteria for Diagnosing Computer Gaming/Media Use Disorder

A maladaptive pattern of computer/video gaming/excess media consumption leading to clinically significant impairment or distress as manifested itself in the following occurring over the same 12 month period:

Computer/video gaming (including game-related activities) or electronic media consumption (including social networking and video uses) for more than 25 hours per week (when unrestricted) and 4 or more of the following symptoms related to excess use:

  1. Declining academic or occupational performance
  2. Irritability, anxiety and depressive symptoms when unable to use or when use is limited
  3. Inability to limit use when necessary despite negative consequences
  4. Significant time spent thinking about computer/video gaming or media consumption when not using or experiencing cravings for use
  5. Important social, academic, occupational or recreational activities are given up or significantly reduced to accommodate use
  6. Personal hygiene or physical health problems related to use
  7. Relationship problems and interpersonal conflict over use

This proposed Diagnostic Criteria is significantly different than what has been proposed for further study by the American Psychiatric Association. Unlike the APAs proposal, the criteria above includes not only video gaming but other forms of excess and compulsive media consumption (i.e. social networking and online videos). For more information on the APA's criteria:

I see these signs in my child/partner/loved one... but what can I do?

Let us help. Call us today for a free consultation to assess your situation and see if the Computer Addiction Treatment Program is right for you.