Interview with Dr. Klaus WölflingGaming Disorder, what is it?

Around Safer Internet Day on February 7, 2023, everything at klicksafe revolves around the topic #OnlineAmLimit. We ask how much media use is good for us. To learn more about gaming disorder, we spoke with Dr. Klaus Wölfling. He is head of the outpatient clinic for gaming addiction at the Psychosomatic Clinic of the University Medical Center Mainz. He explains what computer game addiction is, how common it is, and what help is available.

Who comes to you at the outpatient clinic for gambling addiction?

It varies. We have patients between the ages of 12 and 67. However, most of them are 20 to 30 years old. But sometimes parents or partners also come to us because they are worried about their loved ones.

What does the term gambling addiction include?

The term gambling addiction originally meant gambling addiction. Computer game addiction, on the other hand, is nowadays counted among the so-called Internet use disorders. This includes not only computer game addiction, but also, for example, social media addiction, pornography addiction as well as shopping addiction.

Computer game addiction, what is it actually?

Computer game addiction belongs to the so-called behavioral addictions and is a mental illness in which the affected person plays computer games excessively. Computer game addiction should always be taken seriously and treated professionally.

What distinguishes addiction from dependence?

The terms addiction and dependence are often used synonymously (meaning the same thing). More importantly, however, tends to distinguish between abusive/problematic and addictive/pathological (pathological) consumption. Pathological media consumption is present, among other things, when the person plays uncontrollably, isolates himself socially and neglects other areas of life, such as school, in order to play instead. Problematic use, on the other hand, is when these criteria are not yet fully met, but the use behavior has already taken on alarming proportions .

How many addicted young people are there in Germany?

It is not possible to say exactly. Fully developed addictive behavior would not be diagnosed until the age of 17; 12- to 16-year-olds are more likely to show problematic behavior. One of our studies showed that 12.3% of young people play computer games excessively. At the same time, 9.6% of adolescents would be classified as abusive and 2.7% as dependent users.  

How can I tell if I am addicted or need help?

If someone gambles every day, that doesn't automatically mean he or she is addicted. The decisive factor is whether one still has control over media consumption. We speak of addiction when you can no longer control your gaming behavior, withdrawal symptoms occur or you are unhappy when you don't play for a while. Loss of hobbies and social contacts, lying about how much you play, and absenteeism from school can also be a clue.

What tips do you have for not becoming addicted?

Even in adolescence, there are certain aspects that can lay a foundation for later addictive behavior, such as not having rules for media use. It is actually best to limit media consumption over time. To do this, you could set up rules with your parents, e.g. on daily usage time. It's also important to maintain friendships outside the virtual world and have hobbies, such as sports, theater or playing an instrument.

What do you offer for adolescents in the outpatient clinic for gambling addiction?

We offer media training for adolescents between the ages of 12 and 16 at times in our outpatient clinic. It is suitable for those who do not yet have a computer game addiction, but for the time being "only" show problematic usage behavior. The training takes place in 12 group sessions. It is important that the young people are not sent by their parents, but are self-motivated to participate. The goal of this training is to significantly reduce screen usage times. To do this, the development of hobbies and social contacts in real life is strengthened. We also look at why the young person plays so many computer games, i.e. whether sadness or anger is behind it, for example.

Digital Detox Box and Safer Internet Day

The interview with Dr. Klaus Wölfling is part of the Digital Detox Box. With the Digital Detox Box, young people learn to evaluate their own usage behavior, use digital devices more consciously and think about digital well-being. Strategies range from cell phone fasts to time-out exercises to hand-strengthening finger yoga.

Safer Internet Day (SID) is a global day of action for a better Internet. It is organized in Germany by klicksafe. This year, SID in Germany is themed "#OnlineAmLimit - your net. your life. your limits." All information about the SID can be found on our SID website.