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AMA backs off labeling video game ‘addiction’

Thu., June 28, 2007

Video-game buffs might feel hooked on their favorite titles, but they won’t be officially addicted any time soon.

Saying the issue needed more study, the American Medical Association on Wednesday scaled back a controversial proposal that sought to declare excessive video-game playing a mental disorder akin to pathological gambling.

The association also decided against urging parents to limit to two hours a day the amount of time their kids spend playing video games, watching television and surfing the Internet.

“While more study is needed on the addictive potential of video games, the AMA remains concerned about the behavioral, health and societal effects of video-game and Internet overuse,” Dr. Ronald M. Davis, the association’s president, said in a statement from its annual meeting in Chicago. “We urge parents to closely monitor their children’s use of video games and the Internet.”

The 250,000-member physician organization drew national headlines last week by pressing forward on a proposal to “strongly encourage” that video-game addiction be labeled a formal disorder. The proposal would have asked the American Psychiatric Association to consider including “video game addiction as a formal diagnostic disorder” in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, considered by experts to be the authoritative handbook on mental illness.

Instead, the medical association on Wednesday removed the word “addiction” and decided to simply forward its report expressing concerns about “video-game overuse” to the psychiatric group, which is embarking on a revision of its mental-health manual.

Maressa Hecht Orzack, director of the computer-addiction-studies center at McLean Hospital in Belmont, Mass., said the word choice was irrelevant.

“The fact is, it’s a behavior that’s out of control,” Orzack said. “Whether you call it addiction, overuse or excessive use, it’s the same thing. It’s a condition that interferes with a person’s mental health.”


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