Internet gaming disorder

DSM 5 Internet Gaming Disorder: Personality Factors & Individual Differences

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Internet gaming disorder is becoming increasingly prevalent in our digital society, where people often prefer online socialization and entertainment over other activities. According to the American Psychiatric Association, individuals who engage in “a pattern of excessive and prolonged Internet gaming” leading to cognitive and behavioral problems may have Internet gaming disorder. The DSM 5 criteria are similar to substances of addiction. They include:

  • A preoccupation with gaming
  • Withdrawal symptoms when not gaming (e.g., irritability, anxiety)
  • The development of tolerance, meaning that more time is spent playing online games
  • Unsuccessful attempts to decrease time spent gaming or stop gaming altogether
  • Loss of interest in participating in any other activities aside from gaming
  • Continued Internet gaming despite experiencing consequences related to it
  • Lying to loved ones about the amount of time spent on gaming
  • Playing as a means of escape from stress or problems or to relieve negative mood
  • Risk of, or loss of, relationships, employment, or educational or career opportunities because of gaming

Research has found that Internet gaming disorder is associated with mental health issues such as depression, anxiety, and stress (Pontes & Griffiths, 2015;  Wong, Mo, Potenza, Chan,, Lau, Chui, … & Lin, 2020) along with poorer sleep quality (Lam, 2014) and family conflict (Seok, Jeoung, Park, Park, 2018). Young people may exhibit lower academic achievement if Internet gaming disorder prevents them from studying and completing schoolwork (Hawi, 2018).

Internet Gaming Disorder and Personality Traits

Internet gaming disorder is often believed to align with certain personality traits, such as sensation seeking, impulsivity, and in some cases, aggression. In 2022, Chew and Wong published the results of a study examining the specific personality traits that tend to be present among people with Internet gaming disorder and possibly serve to predict Internet gaming disorder.

The researchers investigated sensation seeking, impulsivity, and aggression, believing that these personality traits would likely predict Internet gaming disorder. Among a sample of 123 Internet gamers who were 57.7% female, they found that only impulsivity and male gender predicted Internet gaming disorder. They also concluded that those people who tend to act without considering consequences are more likely to develop Internet gaming disorder or engage in problematic gaming.

Implications for Mental Health Practitioners

Mental health practitioners are likely to see more clients seeking treatment for Internet gaming disorder among their clients who present with related concerns. They can also expect to see more of this disorder in the future. Associated symptoms may include depression, anxiety, academic difficulties, or relationship/family problems. 

Key Role of Impulsivity

Providers may consider impulsivity a key personality trait related to Internet gaming disorder; therefore, interventions targeting impulsivity could be helpful, particularly among male clients. However, Chen and Wong emphasize taking a preventive stance, meaning that males with high impulsivity may benefit from learning healthy ways to manage and cope with mental health symptoms since they may be at risk of utilizing Internet gaming to alleviate those symptoms.

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