South Korea is perhaps the world's leader in terms of identifying and treating gaming and Internet addiction. After wiring the nation with the world's fastest broadband infrastructure, South Korea's government spends millions per year to identify and treat gaming and Internet addicts.
About 8% of the country's population age 9 to 39 suffer from Internet or gaming addiction, according to a 2010 government study.
Some see South Korea as a window into the future: Perhaps other nations, including the United States, will see a wave of gaming and Internet addiction when our technological infrastructure catches up. Others say it's too soon to know if gaming addiction is really its own disorder.
In the United States, Internet and gaming addiction are not listed in the official Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. In the next revision of that list, however, the American Psychiatric Association has proposed that "Internet Use Disorder" be listed as warranting further study.
Some groups, however, have moved forward with treating Internet and gaming addiction.
One of the leaders in that field is Dr. Han Doug-hyun, from Chung-Ang University Hospital in Seoul, South Korea's capital. Han's research lab treats people who are addicted to games using techniques similar to those used to treat alcoholics, including counseling and virtual-reality therapy (Check out this CNN video to see inside his research and treatment space).
As part of CNN's feature on "Gaming Reality," Han gave us his list of the top five warning signs that a person should seek professional help for Internet or gaming addiction. Take a look at the tips and let us know what you think of them, and of the science of gaming addiction, in the comments.
Here are Han's top 5 warning signs of gaming or Internet addiction:
1. Disrupted regular life pattern. If a person plays games all night long and sleeps in the daytime, that can be a warning he or she should seek professional help.
2. If the potential gaming or Internet addict loses his or her job, or stops going to school in order to be online or to play a digital game.
3. Need for a bigger fix. Does the gamer have to play for longer and longer periods in order to get the same level of enjoyment from the game?
4. Withdrawal. Some Internet and gaming addicts become irritable or anxious when they disconnect, or when they are forced to do so.
5. Cravings. Some Internet and gaming addicts experience cravings, or the need to play the game or be online when they are away from the digital world.