The WHO defines “gaming disorder” as a condition involving addictive behaviours, where someone loses control over their gaming, to the extent that it takes over other parts of their life, with negative consequences.
But only a very small proportion of gamers would be affected in this way, according to the WHO.
Only a “handful” of those referred to Dr Le meet the WHO criteria for gaming addiction, he said.
But former gamer Mr Adair said given the billions of people who play games worldwide, the total number affected could be significant.
And gaming can still be a problem in less extreme cases that don’t meet the WHO criteria for addiction, according to other experts contacted by the ABC.
So where are people seeking help?
Where’s the evidence?
As far back as 2002, the gaming community organised OLG-Anon (On-Line Gamers Anonymous) — an online community that promotes a 12-steps approach to help “excessive gamers”.
Mr Adair supports OLG-Anon but suggests its approach may not appeal to the gamers he is targeting with Game Quitters.
“The second you mention 12-steps, they shut down and are not super receptive to it, even if the advice itself is exactly what they need,” he said.
Mr Adair has teamed up with an addiction treatment centre called The Edge in Thailand, which provides a residential program.
He said the program aims to “reset the relationship with gaming” and involves a period of abstinence — “taking the crutch away” — to help gain insight into the reason for the addiction.
A similar program in Seattle called reSTART urges people to “connect with life, not your device”.
According to Dr Le, some psychologists and family therapists are taking a special interest in the area of gaming addiction, and detox retreats are also available in Australia.
“I also have heard of desperate families who seek paramilitary boot camps that cost $5,000-plus in Queensland,” he said.
Programs at The Edge in Thailand and reSTART in Seattle are considerably more expensive than this.
here are also retreats in the US and the Netherlands and camps in South Korea and Japan dedicated to helping gaming disorder, University of Adelaide clinical psychologist Daniel King said.
But while such retreats may be based on sound psychological and social principles, the question is whether they work — especially in the long term.
The Edge, for example, said it could not provide any success rates at this stage.
Dr King was involved in the WHO decision on gaming disorder, and has reviewed the available evidence on treatment.
He said it’s still early days for research on treatment for problem gaming, but there was some support for the use of Cognitive Behaviour Therapy (CBT).
“We can take lessons from what we know in CBT for gambling or alcohol,” he said.
“It’s not perfect, but that’s the best we can do.
“It’s about identifying the underlying thinking processes behind a gaming behaviour.”
CBT is about helping people identify patterns of unhelpful thinking and developing more helpful beliefs.
But Dr King said therapists using CBT need to understand how to tailor it to someone with gaming problems.
This article was originally published by ABC. Click here to read the entire article.
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