ATLANTA — Some medical professionals say gaming addiction is a real thing.
They're encouraged that the World Health Organization is now acknowledging gaming disorder as a stand-alone condition, but the rare addiction remains controversial in mental health communities.
One family, who asked not to be named to protect their son’s identity, said they know firsthand how dangerous game addiction can be.
The family said their 10-year-old son became so addicted to a video game, that he lost weight and become verbally aggressive.
The family hopes that by sharing their son’s story, other families will seek help for their children.
The 10-year-old boy said he didn’t just like playing Fortnite ... he craved it.
“The whole day I’d just be on it,” he said.
His dad said the changes in his son were very noticeable.
“Before the game, he was playing outside, he was playing soccer. He was a very active kid,” he said.
Then came the weight loss and the aggression.
“When I’m on the iPad, I’m not hungry. I’m not sleepy,” said the boy.
His father said it was like his son was on a drug. The boy has now been off Fortnite for about a year.
"I noticed it was an addiction, but my brain told me to keep on going,” the boy said.
Dr. Syed Quadri sees this boy and other children dealing with gaming addiction.
"Well, you'll be surprised to know some people spend 12 to 16 hours a day,” he said.
Quadri said warning signs of gaming addiction include poor sleep, bad behavior, poor concentration, irritability and mood changes.
The boy began seeing Quadri to work on his attention deficit disorder or ADD; his gaming addiction manifested later.
Quadri reports children with ADD and similar disorders have a harder time with video game addiction.
He's glad the World Health Organization is recognizing gaming disorder as a stand-alone condition.
"I think it's a first step," Quadri said.
But the American Psychiatric Association questions whether gaming disorder is a stand-alone condition.
"We don't have evidence that video games are uniquely addictive," said Chris Ferguson, a psychology professor at Stetson University.
Ferguson studies how games impact people's behavior. He thinks it's a symptom of another problem and supports more research.
Mental health professionals said gaming addiction is rare; they estimate that 1 percent or less of the adult population have it and Quadri believes for children it could be up to 8 percent.
But the experts agree that parents with concerns should seek out mental health professionals who work with adolescents.
"I know it's an addiction. Now that I'm not on Fortnite anymore, I don't think about it anymore,” said the boy who Quadri helped.
Experts said games with loop boxes can simulate gambling and lead to addiction.
It’s recommended that parents need to read up on games, monitor and even play the game before allowing a child to play.
© 2020 Cox Media Group