Grand Theft Autoism


An AMA committee is recommending that the next edition of the American Psychiatric Association's Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders include the newly discovered syndrome "Internet/video game addiction." After studying the matter for a year, reports MarketWatch, the panel has concluded that "excessive video game playing leads to what it describes as 'social dysfunction/disruption.'" It took a year to discover that excessive video game playing causes problems? Isn't that what makes it excessive?

Since the APA seems bent on cataloging every negative aspect of human behavior as a "mental disorder," why not toss too much Grand Theft Auto into the mix? Seriously. Addiction to video games is every bit as real as addiction to heroin, cigarettes, gambling, fast food, sex, shopping, or anything else that provides pleasure or relieves stress. The world is full of temptations and diversions that can become the focus of a hard-to-break habit leading to "social dysfunction/disruption" (but that usually don't). Leaving aside the question of whether these habits should be viewed as medical problems, the underlying psychological dynamics are similar, regardless of the activity.

The proliferation of officially recognized addictions shows that the essence of the problem is not the irresistible power of any particular object of desire. What matters is an individual's relationship with that object, which in turn depends on his personality, values, tastes, preferences, and circumstances. This is one reason why attempts to prevent addiction by banning the things to which people become addicted are fundamentally misguided.