When addiction symptoms and life problems diverge: a latent class analysis of problematic gaming in a representative multinational sample of European adolescents


The proposed diagnosis of Internet gaming disorder (IGD) in DSM-5 has been criticized for “borrowing” criteria related to substance addiction, as this might result in misclassifying highly involved gamers as having a disorder. In this paper, we took a person-centered statistical approach to group adolescent gamers by levels of addiction-related symptoms and gaming-related problems, compared these groups to traditional scale scores for IGD, and checked how groups were related to psychosocial well-being using a preregistered analysis plan. We performed latent class analysis and regression with items from IGD and psychosocial well-being scales in a representative sample of 7865 adolescent European gamers. Symptoms and problems matched in only two groups: an IGD class (2.2%) having a high level of symptoms and problems and a Normative class (63.5%) having low levels of symptoms and problems. We also identified two classes comprising 30.9% of our sample that would be misclassified based on their report of gaming-related problems: an Engaged class (7.3%) that seemed to correspond to the engaged gamers described in previous literature, and a Concerned class (23.6%) reporting few symptoms but moderate to high levels of problems. Our findings suggest that a reformulation of IGD is needed. Treating Engaged gamers as having IGD when their poor well-being might not be gaming related may delay appropriate treatment, while Concerned gamers may need help to reduce gaming but would not be identified as such. Additional work to describe the phenomenology of these two groups would help refine diagnosis, prevention and treatment for IGD.

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The authors would like to thank the EU NET ADB study for sharing data. This research was supported by the National Institute of Mental Health Training Grant 5T32MH014592-39.

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Correspondence to Michelle Colder Carras.

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Colder Carras, M., Kardefelt-Winther, D. When addiction symptoms and life problems diverge: a latent class analysis of problematic gaming in a representative multinational sample of European adolescents. Eur Child Adolesc Psychiatry 27, 513–525 (2018). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00787-018-1108-1

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  • Internet gaming disorder
  • Video games
  • Problematic gaming
  • Hazardous gaming
  • Adolescence