THE BLOG
11/06/2015 11:01 BST | Updated 10/06/2016 06:59 BST

Could the Next US President be a Online Gaming Addict?

Ted Cruz represents Texas in the US Senate and is a radical conservative candidate for the 2016 Presidential Election. He describes President Obama as an "unmitigated socialist" and has pledged to insert into the US Constitution an amendment allowing every state "to define marriage as the union of one man and one woman."

Is Cruz a Online Gaming Addict?

While the Ted Cruz Electoral Machine is in full throttle, something disrupted his schedule: he poked his nose out out of the closet as a possible online games addict.

"The senator is known as a Tea Party firebrand," writes Tim Mak in the Daily Beast: "Long before Ted Cruz became a senator from Texas, he was a gamer. He's known for being pugilistic on the Senate floor, but sometimes he'd rather be fighting cartoon zombies on his iPhone."

He told the Daily Beast that playing with his daughter on her iPad infuriates his wife and how he "is addicted" to playing Candy Crush on his mobile phone.

The American media, however, don't seem to take the senators possible addiction seriously, but neither do they seem to rate his presidential bid too highly. "Ted Cruz is finished," states the liberal Salon Magazine, in an article which trashes his electoral strategy: "it's sometimes easy to forget that Ted Cruz is running for president."

In my view the American media doesn't take seriously the fact that online gaming addiction is a real problem that requires therapy.

Is Online Gaming Addiction a Problem?

Experience around the world suggests that online gaming addiction is a growing problem. In Amsterdam and Seoul dedicated clinics for online game addiction have been set up.

Psychiatrist Kimberly Young, clinical director for the Center of On-Line Addiction, described online game addiction as "a clinical impulse control disorder" in the same vein as sex and gambling addictions.

Big Impact on Teens

"They become angry, violent, or depressed" says Dr. Kimberley Young about teens addicted to gaming: "If [parents] take away the computer, their child sits in the corner and cries, refuses to eat, sleep, or do anything."

Gaming addicts often feel isolated and agitated when they don't play; they think excessively about games in anticipation of their next gaming "fix", and they consistently lie to friends and family about the amount of time they spend playing. The most common symptoms are sleep deprivation, mood swings and seizures.

Castle Craig therapist Christopher Burn recalls how 5 years ago patients coming into the clinic for online gaming addiction were a rarity. Now one in five patients that attend his "Problem Gambling and Gaming" group are addicted to online gaming game addiction.

"I remember one young man last year who had been spending up to 18 hours a day playing World of Warcraft," says Christopher Burn: "He was very isolated and had very few friends. He agreed that his parents would remove his bedroom door so they could help stop him isolating and monitor his behaviour. It took him a while to learn social skills."

South Korea Tackles Video Game Addiction

South Korea has been increasingly worried about excessive online gaming among teens, especially after the 2005 case of the young man who died after playing "Starcraft" non-stop for 50 hours. Internet addiction is said to affect two million South Koreans and half of its teenage population.

In 2011, the South Korean Congress passed the so called Cinderella Act, which puts online gaming in the same category as drugs and alcohol. In addition, the South Korean health service funds a videogame rehab clinic in Seoul that was recently featured in a Vice documentary on gaming culture in the country.

Is Ted Cruz a Gaming Addict?

What is missing from the Ted Cruz story are signs of an out of control lifestyle.

Dr. Jaffe, an American doctor with his own practice treating people with addiction suggests that this may be a case of mislabeling.

"There are those with a serious addiction", says Dr. Jaffe who also admits that he once spent two hours a day playing online games.

"They get involved in the game to the detriment of relationships [and] their career," he says, "those addicted start to lose touch with their real self. They want to quit but can't. They lie about playing, like in any other addiction. I think the media mislabeled Cruz's addiction."

The Ted Cruz video game addiction story could have sparked a global debate and raised awareness on something which affects, according to some, 20% of online gamers. Instead, it became a sensationalist party trick for a political candidate.

Claudiu Revnic co-authored this article