Video game addiction: The push to pathologize video games

Rune Kristian Lundedal Nielsen, Christopher Ferguson, Anthony Bean, Antonius van Rooij

Research output: Journal Article or Conference Article in JournalJournal articleResearchpeer-review


With proposals to include “gaming disorder” in both the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM) and International Compendium of Diseases (ICD), the concept of video game addiction has gained traction. However, many aspects of this concept remain controversial. At present, little clarity has been achieved regarding diagnostic criteria and appropriate symptoms. It is unclear if symptoms that involve problematic video gaming behavior should be reified as a new disorder, or are the expression of underlying mental conditions. Nonetheless, the recent proposals around gaming disorder from respected bodies such as the World Health Organization and the American Psychiatric Association seem to lock much of the applied research into a confirmatory trajectory. Since the DSM–5 proposal, research is increasingly focused on the application of the proposed criteria, as opposed to broadly testing validity and necessity of the overarching construct. This raises multiple concerns. First, the current approaches to understanding “gaming addiction” are rooted in substance abuse research and approaches do not necessarily translate to media consumption. Second, some research has indicated that “video game addiction” is not a stable construct and clinical impairment might be low. Third, pathologizing gaming behavior has fallout beyond the therapeutic setting. In light of continuing controversies, it is argued that the currently proposed categories of video game addiction disorders are premature.
Original languageEnglish
JournalProfessional Psychology: Research and Practice
Issue number5
Pages (from-to)378-389
Number of pages11
Publication statusPublished - 2017


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