Screen Time, Gaming Disorder & Mental Health: A Virtual Addiction?

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Playing video games has become almost ubiquitous among youth. Many popular video games reward players with randomized digital content with real-world value, blurring the lines with gambling. Gaming disorder is a behavioral addiction to online games. Neurobiological changes in affected individuals are comparable to those occurring in substance use disorders. Research reveals risk factors (male sex, impulsivity, poor social competence & parental attachment), prognosis (85% stability over 2 years), and clinical outcomes (depression, anxiety & academic failure). Research and clinical experience reveals how mental health providers can effectively identify and treat these problems in affected individuals. Clinical implications for identifying and treating patients with IGD (Internet Gaming Disorder), and relation to gambling disorder will be discussed.

Dr. Weigle is a Child and Adolescent Psychiatrist and the Associate Medical Director of Outpatient Programs at Natchaug Hospital of Hartford Healthcare. Dr. Weigle has authored numerous scientific articles on effects of computer habits on the mental health of youth, most recently editing and contributing for a special issue of Child and Adolescent Psychiatric Clinics of North America entitled “Youth Internet Habits and Mental Health.” Dr. Weigle currently serves as co-chair of the AACAP’s Media Committee and on the National Scientific Advisory Board for the Institute of Digital Media and Child Development. He teaches on the clinical staff of Quinnipiac Medical School and UConn School of Medicine.

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