Saturday, June 23, 2007

Is It Really Harder Than Kicking Coffee?

I drink coffee. I drink a lot of coffee. As much as five cups a day, and often three cups before noon: a cup when I get up, a cup when I'm driving to work, and a cup when I'm first at my desk checking e-mail or reading blogs. When I'm working on an article or book chapter, I drink even more. Periodically I try to quit, but I chicken out as soon as I get the headaches. It's safe to say I'm addicted to coffee. But my grandmother drank a lot of coffee too, and she lived to be ninety-three.

Besides, nobody's talking about regulating coffee. Or even forbidding it to minors, which isn't an entirely unreasonable step, given its health consequences. Certainly no one is giving it great standing for purposes of the insurance industry or the medical profession.

And yet, there is a lot of talk right now about videogame addiction as a public health issue. Recently, in "Marathon video game sessions: Is this sick?," The Los Angeles Times reports about attempts to get the AMA to declare video game addiction a psychiatric disorder, which one would assume would also lead to being listed in the APA's professional bible, The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual or DSM, with a distinctive multi-digit number to designate a specific condition.

Using similar rhetoric to that associated with Alcoholics Anonymous, those lobbying for disease status have identified several warning signs, which were reprinted in the LA Times article:

• When you're not playing a game, do you find it difficult not to think about it?
• Are you uninterested in anything else besides games?
• Do you feel unable to control how much you play?
• Are you often late for appointments because of your game play?
• Are you having difficulty managing daily life?
• Do you skip meals to play?
• When you feel alone, do you use games to communicate with others?
• Do you spend more than three hours at a stretch playing?
• Is game play preventing you from getting enough sleep?
• Do you have headaches, dizziness or seizures?

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

There was an article/column in Harper's a few months back (maybe February or March) in which a journalist went to an addiction center in China meant to help youth who have developed an Internet addiction. The author cited arguments that perhaps the Internet addictions are actually symptoms of other psychological or interpersonal conditions. You might want to check it out.

5:16 PM  

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