Anchor: If you have a loved one that you think has a serious addiction to video games, the World Health Organization is now backing your suspicion. Earlier today the WHO announced it is adding gaming disorder as a new mental health condition. It says the symptoms are destructive behavior, very similar to gambling addiction and substance abuse. Is says people with the disorder make video games their first priority – more than eating, sleeping, socializing. The WHO says gamers can’t control their obsessions – even where there are negative consequences his or hers need to play that game gets worst and worst, finally the gamers behavior causes rifts between his or hers personal or occupational relationships.
Anchor: Ted Guastello, Vice President of Operations at Newport Academy – a teen mental health treatment center is joining me today. Thank you so much for being here sir.
Ted: Great to be here
Anchor: Obviously there is some discussion among psychologists. Obviously not everybody is of this feeling that it should have been given that designation because they say it is premature to label this as a diagnosis since there are people who actually use games to quell those feeling of anxiety have you seen that in your work?
Ted: Absolutely. I think that games can be a tool that is helpful, but like every tool it has the potential to become a weapon and when you look at the role that the behavior plays in someone’s life, that is when you can start to see if it is getting into addiction territory, where in order to engage in this I am sacrificing other parts of my life – social relationships, academic performance, family time…
Anchor: is this a slippery slope, or not for everybody? For some people and some personalities it is?
Ted: You know, I was reflecting on this. I do think that there are tendencies, but I think really it is the underlying discomfort and that certain persons who are exposed to video games they are going to take to it because they are using it for self-soothing. So if that pre-condition of the underlying trauma, discontent, chemical imbalance – whatever is in play, that is where you will start to see progressive behaviors about it.
Anchor: The WHO has actually made the point that there are thousands and thousands of gamers who are not going to have this issue, but for some this will become almost debilitating especially if it gets to the point where we hear that they are forgoing even food and sleep. What in your experience can parents do, or care giver do if they think that someone is in the throes of such an addiction?
Ted: I think like all addictions, it is important to look at the outward behaviors as symptoms of an inner discontent. At Newport Academy we surround our kids with a lot of individualized therapy. The idea is to rebuild from the inside. To find what is the discontent inside that they are addressing in the outward behaviors.
Anchor: And that has proven successful for you
Ted: Yes, absolutely. The other part is behavioral, pairing it with experiences. Like some of the things we do like – adventure therapy, mindfulness, meditation, paddle boarding. I think families can simulate that.
Anchor: In their own back yard or neighborhoods. So, you are of the mind that this was the right thing to do? To designate this as a mental health condition
Ted: Truly yes. I think that forty – fifty years ago we were just as surprised by chemical dependency and gambling. We viewed them as voluntary behaviors. I think that what we know about the brain now makes it more logical. I am happy for anything that brings healing and help to people who are struggling
Anchor: It will also give doctors the ability to give this people help and maybe even send them to facilities like yours. Thank you so much for being here again, Ted Guastello from Newport Academy
Originally aired on HLN