Dr. Mark Gold’s Research You Can Use
Video gaming and viewing pornography are highly prevalent behaviors in today’s age and time. Yet, little is known about how the two can be related or overlap each other. Earlier this year, a day-long crash of the servers of the video game Fortnite: Battle Royale presented interesting potential insight into the technicalities and consequences of abstinence from problematic gaming.
April 2018 witnessed a 24-hour crash of the servers of the popular video game “Fortnite.” Meanwhile, Pornhub, a popular pornographic website, declared a 10 percent increase in the gamers’ access to Pornhub and a 60 percent increase in searches of pornographic videos with “Fortnite” as a keyword.
A recent open-access article discussed these observations in detail, in the context of a common debate based upon the rationale behind withdrawal behaviors from a problematic involvement in video gaming and considering pornography as compensatory behavior during such instances of “forced abstinence.”
These unusual consumption trends of pornography only lasted for that 24-hour window of “forced abstinence” and returned to baseline when the gaming servers were restored. The authors, however, forewarn the readers that the interpretation of these statistics needs to be done so with caution, given the circumstantial nature of the incident.
Problematic gaming and gaming disorder
In 2018, the World Health Organization (WHO) classified gaming disorder under the International Classification of Diseases (ICD-11), a list of medical conditions that health professionals utilize for diagnoses and treatment plans.
Individuals with a gaming disorder struggle with controlling the time spent playing digital or video games to a point where they prioritize gaming over all other interests and activities.
Moreover, they continue this trend of gaming despite experiencing adverse effects exerted over the person’s family, social, personal and professional life, including education. Such physical inactivity for long periods of time also exposes the gamer to a higher risk of obesity, sleep disturbances, and other health issues.
Research has suggested in the past that gaming addiction may be likely to co-occur with other mood disorders such as anxiety disorders, depression, and stress.
An assessment of gaming withdrawal symptomatology
Despite the fact that these statistics need to be interpreted with caution, they provide essential ecological data suggesting how gamers may cope with “forced abstinence.” It provides further supporting evidence for the ongoing debate regarding the relevance of the concepts of “withdrawal” or “craving” to problematic video gaming.
Recent research reiterates that some gamers may experience distressing symptoms and may decide to cope with them by resorting to a “compensation” strategy, that is, seeking out other activities related to their game of choice.
Researching information regarding video games in relevant forums or watching gaming videos on YouTube are all considered to fall under the category of compensatory behaviors. Statistics yielded by Pornhub shed light on other, previously unknown, compensatory tactics: game-related pornographic materials.
Indeed, Fortnite-related search results on Pornhub led to many videos of parodies where actors performed sexual scenes dressed as Fortnite characters, couples engaging in sexual intercourse while playing Fortnite, or Fortnite-related anime videos.
A review of gaming withdrawal symptomatology involved the evaluation of a total of 34 studies. Results indicated an inadequacy and underdevelopment of the available evidence on internet gaming withdrawal. Gaming withdrawals were most consistently related to “irritability” and “restlessness.”
There exist no substantial treatment studies that have effectively outlined a natural course of withdrawal trajectory following an intervention or cessation.
Conclusions from this review strongly emphasized the importance of conducting ad prioritizing more qualitative clinical studies in order to develop a deeper understanding of gaming withdrawal. This, in turn, should also improve clinical descriptions of problematic internet gaming and consequently, allow more accurate diagnosis and effective treatments.
Distinguishing the “problem”
The classification of gaming disorder in the ICD-11 has garnered criticism in comparison to its support as well.
While it is extremely important to identify and remedy problematic behaviors, it is equally important not to mistake enthusiastic gaming for a gaming disorder.
Many at times, worried parents may lead to a misdiagnosis simply on the basis of ‘moral panic’ around gaming habits. It is likely that only a small percentage of people who play online and video games will meet the criteria for gaming disorder.
Some scholars contributed a paper to the Journal of Behavioral Addictions outlining their concerns about the classification of gaming disorder. Aarseth et al. questioned whether problematic gaming should be considered a new disorder, even though it is still up for revision.
Still, Aarseth and colleagues they did concede that the evidence is clear that some individuals do experience the adverse effects of problematic gaming. These tend to be identical to the behaviors characteristic of other addictions.
But, while real and alarming, gaming addiction is comparatively rare. There exists a wide disagreement on the symptomatology of gaming disorder, primarily due to the fact that not everyone will experience the exact same symptoms or adverse consequences.
Ultimately, validating gaming disorders is not about pathologizing healthy entertainment but about recognizing excessive and problematic behaviors that cause significant psychological distress and exert an adverse influence upon an individual’s life. Even though gaming is a pastime activity enjoyed non-problematically by millions worldwide, it is undeniable that problematic gaming does exist and is an example of disordered gaming.
About the Author:
Mark S. Gold, M.D. served as Professor, the Donald Dizney Eminent Scholar, Distinguished Professor and Chair of Psychiatry from 1990-2014. Dr. Gold was the first Faculty from the College of Medicine to be selected as a University-wide Distinguished Alumni Professor and served as the 17th University of Florida’s Distinguished Alumni Professor.
Learn more about Mark S. Gold, MD
About the Transcript Editor:
A journalist and social media savvy content writer with extensive research, print and on-air interview skills, Sana Ahmed has previously worked as staff writer for a renowned rehabilitation institute, a content writer for a marketing agency, an editor for a business magazine and been an on-air news broadcaster.
Sana graduated with a Bachelors in Economics and Management from London School of Economics and began a career of research and writing right after. Her recent work has largely been focused upon mental health and addiction recovery.
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We at Addiction Hope understand that addictions result from multiple physical, emotional, environmental and genetic factors. If you or a loved one are suffering from an addiction, please know that there is hope for you, and seek immediate professional help.
Published on January 1, 2019
Reviewed by Jacquelyn Ekern, MS, LPC on January 1, 2019
Published on AddictionHope.com