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Video Game Addiction Now Officially Seen As A 'Disease'

The World Health Organisation has classified gaming addiction as a disorder. Could you be suffering from it?

People hooked on video games have been recognised as the latest casualties of addiction.

Dr John Saunders -- the Director of Wesley Hospital's Drug and Alcohol program who has 40 years experience treating addictions, including gaming disorder -- told 10 daily extreme gamers are on the rise and more insulated than ever.

"A significant proportion of people involved in online games now have closed-in lives. Their focus on the game is such that they often do little more."

Gaming addiction was added to the International Classification of Diseases by the World Health Organisation [WHO] in June.

A gamer plays 'Fortnite Battle Royale' during Paris Games Week in October. Image: Chesnot/Getty.

Saunders -- a member of the organisation's global advisory committee on addictive disorders -- explained how 'withdrawal phenomenon' is a characteristic often suffered by game addicts.

The condition involved gamers experiencing similar withdrawal symptoms as a drug and or alcohol addict would -- like moodiness, insomnia, episodes of aggression and violence.

"Research indicates [substance] withdrawal phenomena can occur when people are addicted to gaming and suddenly, the game stops. Symptoms can progress to delirium," Saunders described.

A Microsoft spokesperson told 10 daily while the company saw gaming technology as an "advantage for families" it was important for users to adopt healthy online habits.

"When used wisely, [technology] is a positive force in the classroom, in personal growth, and in helping spend quality time together. However, it’s important consumers learn how to lead healthy digital lives.

"We’re committed to making gaming a positive and inclusive form of entertainment and a rewarding experience for all," the spokesperson stated.

Popular Sydney DJ Jerome 'Klasik' Salele'a told 10 daily he played games "65 percent of the day or more" but had never experienced such symptoms.

Salele'a, 33, admitted to playing a singular session of Fortnite for 13-15 hours straight recently, which he said was about positive "bonding" for him.

Addicted gamers can spend up to 15 hours per day playing on devices. Image: Chesnot/Getty.

"My nephew lives in Perth and I don’t get to see him grow up, but I get to talk to him and spend time with him online every day. Also, his father and my other brother, as they work in the mines," he explained.

Saunders said many of his patients with gaming disorders spent those kinds of marathon hours playing games, and that was nowhere near the worst of it.

"On the extreme end, there are reports of people playing online games for over 100 hours non-stop and in fact, dying as a result of that. People can die from thrombosis in their leg and pelvic veins, which can lead to cardiac arrest."

Avid gamer Shamar Roby, 35, told 10 daily he'd witnessed a childhood friend play games for that length of time and ultimately "shut out the whole world", which stopped his own addictive habits from being formed.

"There are those who can play hours on end and function in a normal capacity and then there are people caught in a free-fall of mental health and wellbeing," he said.

Many companies now display 'Gaming Break' messages mid-play or have timers in an effort to counter the development of unhealthy habits for people at risk of struggling with true gaming addiction," he offered.

Yilak Mumbulla, 24, described how his gaming habits started when he was in high school as a way to be social "instead of being out".

Young players in China practice for a battle match of mobile game Arena of Valor, China's most popular mobile game. Image: Zhang Peng/LightRocket via Getty.

The Eora College student -- who said he played online games "most days and nights" -- admitted endless hours behind the console took their toll.

"It can [make me] anti-social [and] cause anger problems during certain games. It also ruins my sleeping patterns, body clock and actual system if you have to be out during the day. It can also be expensive if you're addicted."

While traditional video games had lower levels of habit-forming potential, Saunders said online games like Fortnite created the biggest shift in addiction.

"Highly repetitive but also very well-constructed online games have the effect of really immersing people into the game -- in some people to the extent they assume the identity of the person in this virtual world they're playing," he said.

Local and international studies showed men still outnumber women 10 to one in terms of gaming addiction. Image: Sean Gallup/Getty.

Salele'a illustrated how multi-player games -- technically known as Massive Multiplayer Online Role-Playing Games -- can offer a "safe space" for users.

"People run from their problems in games. I know people who play games to talk to others because it’s too hard seeing them in person. Or because they only know someone online, they feel more comfortable sharing their issues."

Studies showed men still outnumber women 10 to one in terms of gaming addiction, and Saunders explained the disorder can creep up over time.

"It's important to recognise people who get into gaming can slip into excessive gaming and in turn, slip into addictive gaming," he said.

"It's wrong to think there must always be a reason. Some people might have one -- like mental health issues -- but a lot of people don't. The more people spend time gaming, obviously the more the rest of their life is squeezed out."

Featured image: Getty.

Contact the author: samelia@networkten.com.au