The American Medical Association will decide later this month whether internet and video game addiction is a real disease. The doctors will vote on the issue at the AMA national meeting at Chicago.
The tell tale signs of the new disease is teens holing up in their rooms, ignoring friends, family, even food and a shower, while grades plummet and belligerence soars.
Video games for certain kids can be as powerfully addictive as heroin.
The vote was spearheaded by Doctor Mohamed Khan with the AMA's Council on Science and Pubilc Health. Khan authored a study called "Emotional and Behavioral Effects, Including Addictive Potential, of Video Games" and recommended that Internet/video game addiction be added as a formal diagnostic disorder in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders-IV (DSM-IV). Since the American Psychiatric Association (APA) is responsible for additions to the DSM-IV, its members will have their own vote, once the vote passes the AMA.
Khan also recommended that parents should allow their children to be in front of television and computer screens for a maximum of one to two hours a day. Video game time would be included in that amount.
The AMA would not be voting that all video game players are addicts. It will be saying that video game addiction, like gambling addiction, does affect some members of the gaming population and they need help.
There are many who do agree with this new malady. There will be debate among psychologists who might say that if you know well enough to eat, sleep, go to work, school, kiss your significant other and or children goodnight, chances are you aren't an addict.
"I'm an addiction skeptic," said Steve Jones, a communications professor at the University of Illinois and a research fellow with the Pew Internet & American Life Project.
"Just because any activity might interfere with other activities is not enough to call it an addiction."
Video game makers scoff at the notion that their products can cause a psychiatric disorder. Even some mental health experts say labeling the habit a formal addiction is going too far.Michael Gallagher, president of the Entertainment Software Association, said the trade group sides with psychiatrists "who agree that this so-called 'video-game addiction' is not a mental disorder. "The American Medical Association is making premature conclusions without the benefit of complete and thorough data," Gallagher said.
An AMA report notes that the heaviest game players are those who play MMORPGs — massive multiplayer online role-playing games such as World of Warcraft. And those players, says the AMA, are more likely to be socially isolated — and probably addicted.
Up to 90 percent of American youngsters play video games and as many as 15 percent of them — more than 5 million kids — may be addicted, according to data cited in the AMA council's report.
There are many people who agree with AMA's stand. Many adults say that video game addiction cost them jobs, family lives and self-esteem.
Dr. Michael Brody, head of a TV and media committee at the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, agreed. He praised the AMA council for bringing attention to the problem, but said excessive video-game playing could be a symptom for other things, such as depression or social anxieties that already have their own diagnoses.
For 160 years, the AMA has made recommendations on the nation's health that are quickly adopted. They range from recommending cars be equipped with seat belts to calling for annual mammograms for women older than 50.