Latest news on mental health
By Alan Mozes Health Day Journalist
Is it possible to get addicted to internet gambling?
Yes, warns new research that has found that when young people get too addicted, it can trigger sleep disturbances, depression, anxiety, and in some cases even thoughts of suicide.
Telephone interviews conducted with nearly 3,000 American students between 2007 and 2015 revealed that approximately one in 20 suffered from “Internet gaming disorder,” a clinical condition defined by the compulsive use of electronics, both online and offline.
“As with any addiction, to be considered a disorder, internet gambling must cause disruption in daily life,” said study author Dr Maurice Ohayon, director of the Stanford Sleep Epidemiology Research Center at Stanford University in Palo Alto, California.
An example: “Play [online] until late at night and then having difficulty getting up in the morning to go to class or to work, or just skipping classes, ”Ohayon said.
Ohayon also found that the behavior was linked to a higher-than-normal risk of “waking up feeling un-rested, feeling fatigued, feeling depressed, and having social anxiety.”
Does this definitely mean that gambling disorders directly cause poor mental and physical health? No, said Ohayon, who warned that not enough was known about the disorder and that “causation cannot be deduced.”
Yet he and his colleague found evidence that “many things – such as feeling depressed, social anxiety, having very few friends, being socially unhappy and suicidal [thoughts] – highlighted social isolation or loneliness among students with Internet gambling disorders. “
The study’s authors noted that 90% of U.S. households are now connected to the Internet, with teens and young adults being among its heaviest users.
Beginning in the late 1990s, researchers began to study the potential drawbacks of heavy internet use. In 2013, this concern prompted the American Psychiatric Association to include Internet gaming disorder as an official diagnosis in its updated diagnostic manual.
But what exactly separates excessive internet use from true addiction remains a matter of debate. “For the time being,” said Ohayon, the manual has placed Internet gambling disorder under the section of diagnoses that require further investigation “because this is a relatively recent problem and one that we still have. insufficient data “.
This could explain why estimates of internet gambling disorders vary widely, with prevalence in the United States ranging from less than 1% to over 9%.
To better understand the true extent of the problem, the team focused on a group of Stanford University students.
Interviews with the students lasted about 75 minutes, on average. Internet gaming disorder was only diagnosed if a student reported using the Internet and / or an electronic device for at least 15 hours per week and indicated at least five ongoing behavioral issues.
These included: missing or being late for class; feeling guilty about Internet habits; loss of ambition or efficiency; behave carelessly; having trouble sleeping; jump more and more online after feeling argued, disappointed or frustrated; go online to “escape” the feeling of worry; or lie about their internet habits.
The team found that 5.3% of those surveyed had the disorder, with the overall risk appearing to be slightly – but not significantly – higher in boys.
The results were published online recently in the journal Psychiatry research.
A psychiatrist not involved in the study described the investigation as “an extremely well conducted and very useful study for our field.”
But “as is the case with any form of addiction, it is important to know that not everyone who enjoys using the Internet will develop an addiction. Just like the vast majority of people who drink alcohol will not become alcoholics.” , underlined Dr Petros Levounis. , Chairman of the Department of Psychiatry at Rutgers New Jersey Medical School.
“But there are a significant number of people who will,” he admitted, although it is not always clear why some fall prey to Internet gambling disorder.
“Some kids may have socialization issues that cause them to spend more time online; some may develop problems because of the time they spend online, ”Levounis said. “But it’s not necessarily the chicken or the egg. It can be both. “
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Either way, having an Internet gaming disorder means “they’ll always think about it,” Levounis said. “They’ll be thirsty to be online, they’ll spend an inordinate amount of time online, and they might try to cut back but find they can’t. They know it’s bad, but they just can’t stop. “
And that, he added, “can have serious consequences. Your job, your studies, your grades start to suffer. Your interpersonal relationships start to deteriorate, and you stop having other interests or move on. -time”.
As to what can be done, Levounis said the interventions “are very similar” to what would be done to treat any type of addiction. “Except we don’t have specific drugs for it,” he noted. “So much of the work will involve cognitive behavioral therapy and counseling to help motivate the patient to change their behavior.”
There is more on Internet gaming disorder at American Psychiatric Association.
SOURCES: Maurice Ohayon, MD, DSc, PhD, professor, psychiatry and behavioral sciences, and director, Stanford Sleep Epidemiology Research Center, Stanford University, Palo Alto, California; Petros Levounis, MD, MA, professor and chair, department of psychiatry, Rutgers New Jersey Medical School, and department head, University Hospital, Newark, NJ; Psychiatry research, June 6, 2021, online
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