In our view, your call for government agencies to support research into gambling disorder (see Nature 553, 379; 2018) should be extended to a wider group of behavioural addictions. This work can then inform policy and public-health initiatives.
The American Psychiatric Association’s 5th edition of Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders formally recognizes only gambling disorder as a behavioural addiction. Yet the gaming industry as a whole was estimated at more than US$100 billion last year (go.nature.com/2egtu8n). As in the case of gambling, many jurisdictions do not have agencies that support research into gaming.
The Internet has facilitated the availability, affordability and accessibility of gaming and other behaviours such as shopping and viewing pornography. The extent to which problematic engagement in these activities represents distinct disorders warrants further research, particularly given controversies regarding which disorders constitute behavioural addictions. In this process, their associated harms, clinical relevance, theoretical underpinnings and empirical evidence must be considered.
The World Health Organization has held annual meetings since 2014 to discuss pressing needs, research agendas and policy initiatives related to Internet use, with gaming disorder being proposed as a formal diagnosis (see also go.nature.com/2etzndv). Understanding the biological, psychological and social processes underlying addictive behaviours stands to improve prevention and treatment strategies. This is crucial for young people, given the pervasiveness of digital technologies and the potential impact of such behaviours on development.
Nature 555, 30 (2018)