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Gamers in UAE find mental disorder tag 'offensive'

Sarwat Nasir, Asma Ali Zain/Dubai
Filed on June 24, 2018 | Last updated on June 24, 2018 at 09.48 pm
Gaming is an escapist route to many people cutting across the ages to kill their boredom and fight depression, according to users.
Gaming is an escapist route to many people cutting across the ages to kill their boredom and fight depression, according to users.

Some gamers agree with the WHO decision and said gaming can cause positive and negative habits.

Some gamers in the UAE "feel offended" that the World Health Organisation (WHO) has labelled addiction to gaming as a mental health disorder.

Khaleej Times spoke to gamers in Dubai who said they find gaming as a way of "escaping" from personal or real world problems.

However, some gamers agree with the WHO decision and said gaming can cause positive and negative habits.

Tariq Raouf, a gamer in Dubai, who has admitted to taking gaming to "drastic levels", said he is offended by WHO's decision and thinks they have taken it "too far".

"I believe that the WHO have taken it to an extreme by classifying it as a mental disorder. In fact, I find it slightly offensive. I do realise that when people are addicted to games it can be brutal, however that is not the underlying problem. It is the medium that a lot of people use to cope with their problems and relax, to focus on something else and enjoy it.

It is something that has become a huge part of people's daily lives, their enjoyment. Some people don't have any friends in outside of these games, I feel like gaming has actually saved countless a majority of people," he said.

"The WHO has recently classified gaming addiction as a mental disorder and I understand why they have done so, however I disagree with the decision. I do know that a lot of people, myself included, have taken gaming to drastic lengths.

Our lives have revolved around the playing of virtual games and we have become addicted to an extent. The reason people play games differ from person to person, they could be enjoying it solely because of the story line, which is like reading a good book but experiencing it yourself. They could be playing competitively with friends to have a sense of purpose and not focus on real world problems. Gaming can be an escape to many people, it feels like a blessing most of the time because as soon as we focus on our games, we no longer feel the pain of real world turmoils."

Emirati gamer, Ahmad Abdulla Al Tunaiji, said he has been gaming since he was 14 and has made "lots of" friends online. He said gaming helps him fight depression. "Video games came into my life at such a young age and had a very strong impact through my years of growing until this very moment. It has impacted me both positively and negatively. I improved my English vocabulary through reading the plots of RPG (role playing games). Also, I made a lot of friends online since I was 14 that are with me today through online gaming," he said.

"Having depression, I feel that video gaming has become a space for me to escape the real world and jump into a fantasy that is much brighter and happier.

"I find it very disappointing that I have to go through several clinics to find insurance on therapy/psychiatric. We should raise awareness and consider ones mental health equivalent to physical health and help should be accessible and offered right around the corner."

Meanwhile, a full-time professional gamer in Dubai, Jason Mann, agrees with WHO's decision to classify addiction to gaming as a mental disorder.

He said there are a small portion of kids who class and fall under the gaming disorder. Mann said that it becomes an issue when gamers refuse to get up and use the bathroom.

"As a gamer myself and someone that works full time in the gaming industry, I need to stress the importance that parents also need to make sure that they do not use the term so freely, as there is a very distinctive line between someone who enjoys games and someone who is addicted.

"Three to four-hours a day is not an addiction, gaming simply needs moderation. As long as the child is doing well in school or it is a career, there shouldn't be an issue. The term "addiction" by parents and individuals shouldn't be used lightly," Mann said, adding that gaming needs to be done in moderation.

This is a wake-up call for gaming addicts, say experts

For video game addicts, it is time to take that much-needed break.

Last week the World Health Organisation (WHO) announced in its latest edition of disease classification manual that compulsive game playing is now a mental health condition. It defines a "gaming disorder" as having three major characteristics that experts say are similar to substance use disorders and gambling disorder.

Gamers in UAE find mental disorder tag 'offensive' (KT15720624.JPG)

Behavioural changes must be present for at least 12 months before it can be officially diagnosed as a disorder, according to World Health Organisation.

Health experts and the gaming community in the UAE say that it is a wake-up call for all.

Dr Dhilare Shabnas, clinical psychologist at Canadian Specialist Hospital, said it is a great milestone as the issue is finally being recognised as a medical condition. "This well help in raising awareness among parents and the medical fraternity to better equip us to handle such situations."

The WHO, however, says that the pattern of behaviour must be present for at least 12 months before it can be officially diagnosed as a disorder. It also estimate that the gaming disorder only affects a "small proportion of people".

According to Dr Dhilare, gamers lose interest in daily activities and spend most of their time playing. "Gradually, their personal, social, occupational and educational life gets affected. When the individual starts facing difficulty in day-to-day life they are in an impaired state of being, which leads to stress and affects their social and personal life," she said, adding that lack of interest in food and sleep weakens the general physical health and gradually the mental health of the individual.

Dr Mustafa Saif, specialist internal medicine and head of emergency department at Aster Hospital, Mankhool, said that video games are of different types; one in which a single player plays the game and the rounds usually end with rescuing a princess or attaining the hidden box of gems.

"Another type of video game is one which people adorn fictional characters and play against another group of players. It is important to understand that one who plays video games frequently cannot be termed as a gaming addict, although this is general belief of parents and guardians.

"On the other hand, an addict is one who cannot think of anything else but gaming and tends to let gaming interfere with their routine activities including absenteeism from school, not socialising with friends or peers, lack of appetite and personal hygiene, etc. They have a problem and need to consult a specialist to get over the same. When people prefer to live in the virtual world than in reality, it is understood that they need assistance."

Dr Dilhare said: "The individual would prefer being alone and neglect responsibilities," adding that signs of severe addiction could be loss of interest, lack of sleep and trouble eating.

Signs to watch out for

Video game addiction is similar to drug addiction where a person experiences various physical and emotional symptoms. They include:

>Poor appetite

>Weight loss

>Sleep deprivation

>Inability to concentrate

>Irritability

>Poor academic performance

>Restlessness when unable to play

>Mood swings when restricted from playing

>Isolation

>Lack of physical activity

>Health issues like dry eyes, back pain, carpal tunnel syndrome etc.

>Ignoring fpersonal hygiene

Tips for parents to help kids fight addiction

Video game addiction is treatable in an effective manner to make gaming a healthy part of normal life.  Counselling and behaviour modification are the major treatment options.

>It is crucial for parents to talk to their children on a regular basis about their issues.

> As a parent, enforce healthy limits and restrictions on your child, for example regulations similar to that of watching television. Make sure they play video games only for limited time.

>Introduce your child to other outdoor and indoor activities like sports, music, reading etc.

>Observe your child's behaviour and address the issue immediately with appropriate actions upon noticing unusual symptoms like poor academic performance and behavioural changes.

asmaalizain@khaleejtimes.com sarwat@khaleejtimes.com


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