While occasional use of video games is harmless and may even help with some disorders like autism, doctors said in extreme cases it can interfere with day-to-day necessities like working, showering or even eating.
"Working with this problem is no different than working with alcoholic patients. The same denial, the same rationalization, the same inability to give it up," Dr. Thomas Allen of the Osler Medical Center in Towson, Md.
Dr. Louis Kraus of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry and a psychiatrist at Rush University Medical Center, said it is not yet clear whether video games are addictive.
"It's not necessarily a cause-and-effect type issue. There may be certain kids who have a compulsive component to what they are doing," he said in an interview.
But addictive or not, too much time spent playing video games takes away from other important activities.
"The more time kids spend on video games, the less time they will have socializing, the less time they will have with their families, the less time they will have exercising," Kraus said. "They can make up academic deficits, but they can't make up the social ones."
The AMA committee will consider the testimony and make its final recommendation to the AMA's 555 voting delegates, who will vote on the matter later this week.
The Entertainment Software Association, which represents the $30 billion global video game industry, said more research is needed before video game addiction should be categorized as a mental disorder.
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