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How can you cure serious video game addiction?

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Compulsive gamers have a few treatment options open to them, starting with individual cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) or group therapy such as On-Line Gamers Anonymous which utilizes the 12 step treatment modality.


Specialized Gaming Treatments

Amsterdam's Smith & Jones Center also uses 12 step, but it boasts "the first specialized online gaming treatment program in the world," (a claim some established clinics in China might take issue with).

This boast isn't so troubling as that center's boast of "affordable addiction treatment packages" including an offer that reads like a clearance sale for people hooked on the internet and video games; treatment for two hypothesized addictions for the price of one, quite a deal. Little surprise they are a private treatment center, since government funding to treat gamers, even in anything-goes Amsterdam, might prove a stretch.

The center's director told the Manitoban Online that it is "more difficult to cure an RPG (role-playing game) addiction than a drug addiction." Then, apparently intent on fully destroying his own credibility, he added that in the future, game addiction would be a worse social problem than drug addiction. The good news is, he has a cure ….


China's Backward Leap

China's Communist Youth League calls the internet gaming compulsion a "grave social issue" and parents worried about their teenagers' gaming habits in that country apparently have a unique government-run boot camp at their disposal which, according to news reports, hypes electrocution as one of its treatment methods. It is tough to know what to say at moments like this.

Until this report came along, many may have argued that China's efforts to curb pathological gaming-imposing time limits (its "fatigue system") and cybercafé bans for teens-were to be applauded. Now, not so much.


Conclusion

It might have made things a lot easier if in June of 2007 the APA had voted the other way. It might have opened the door-to more clinical research or treatment options-but herein lies the problem with these hypothesized addictions, from video games to the internet to pornography and more: they move and develop much, much more quickly than modern medicine.

Unlike them, organizations like the APA have standards to uphold, and do nothing without first putting potential disorders through a rigorous process of hypothesis, test, theorize, and review, and they are willing only to change the DSM when those changes are "based on the latest and best science" and not on whatever 'addiction' of the moment might be sending parents or friends into a panic


For now …

For now, video gamers that play to excess, stop showering, lose their jobs, and otherwise spend ten or twenty hours a day or week in their virtual world may be exhibiting compulsive behavior or they may be escaping the real world. Their compulsive gaming may be leading to negative consequences in other aspects of their lives.

They will not however suffer from the physical withdrawal symptoms associated with drugs or alcohol if they are somehow separated from the game. On a parent forum one mother remarked that when she tried to take her son out for the day he "just had to get back to his game, it was like he was in withdrawals".

Those are called compulsions, not withdrawals. Using the term in such a setting is a colloquial perversion similar to saying one is addicted to their cell phone.
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