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Create Your Own Mental Disorder

Unbelievably, we reported earlier this week that 1 in 12 teens may be addicted to video games. I say “unbelievably” because the research that comes to this stunning conclusion lacked a certain… validity.

As Dr. Cheryl Olson noted succinctly on Game Politics:

The concern here is labeling normal childhood behaviors as “pathological” and “addicted.” The author [Iowa State University’s Prof. Douglas Gentile] is repurposing questions used to assess problem gambling in adults; however, lying to your spouse about blowing the rent money on gambling is a very different matter from fibbing to your mom about whether you played video games instead of starting your homework.

So in other words, you can create your own Instant Mental Disorder ™ by simply repurposing the criteria for pathological gambling for any behavior you find might be potentially “addicting.” Don’t believe me? This is exactly how “Internet addiction” was created nearly 13 years ago (and it still is no closer to being valid despite the passage of time because of its conflicting diagnostic criteria and poor sampling).

Instant Mental Disorder

We’ve made it easy for you to create your own Instant Mental Disorder ™ — just like real researchers do! — by printing and filling out the below form. Try words or phrases like “reading” or “socializing with friends/family” or “watching TV” or “following favorite sports team” to see how effectively this IMD applies to so many people in your life!

In order to be diagnosed, you only need to match 5 or more of the following criteria:

1. Preoccupation:

The person is preoccupied with ________________ and has frequent thoughts about ________________, planning the next time spent doing ___________________, or thinking of ways to do more of ____________________, etc.

2. Tolerance:

Similar to drug tolerance, the person needs to ________________ with increasing amounts of (time/effort/money) in order to achieve the desired excitement or “rush.”

3. Loss of Control:

The person has made repeated unsuccessful efforts to control, cut back, or stop __________________.

4. Withdrawal:

The person is restless or irritable when attempting to cut down or stop _________________.

5. Escape:

The person ______________ as a way of escaping from problems or of relieving a dysphoric mood (e.g., feelings of helplessness, guilt, anxiety, depression).

6. Chasing:

After losing (time/money/something else) _______________, the person often returns another day to get even.

7. Lying:

Lies to family members, therapist, or others to conceal the extent of involvement with __________________.

8. Illegal Activity:

The person has committed illegal acts such as forgery, fraud, theft, or embezzlement to finance __________________.

9. Risked Relationships:

The person has jeopardized or lost a significant relationship, job, or educational or career opportunity because of _________________.

10. Bailout:

Relies on others, such as friends or family, to provide (money/excuses/help) to relieve a desperate situation caused by _________________.

11. Mania:

The behavior isn’t better explained by a manic episode.

Scored 5 or more on this? Congratulations! You now meet the diagnostic criteria for being Addicted to _________________. Get thyself to a Center for Treatment of ______________ Addiction today!

Create Your Own Mental Disorder

John M. Grohol, Psy.D.

Dr. John Grohol is the founder of Psych Central. He is a psychologist, author, researcher, and expert in mental health online, and has been writing about online behavior, mental health and psychology issues since 1995. Dr. Grohol has a Master's degree and doctorate in clinical psychology from Nova Southeastern University. Dr. Grohol sits on the editorial board of the journal Computers in Human Behavior and is a founding board member of the Society for Participatory Medicine. You can learn more about Dr. John Grohol here.

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APA Reference
Grohol, J. (2018). Create Your Own Mental Disorder. Psych Central. Retrieved on October 26, 2020, from
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 8 Jul 2018 (Originally: 23 Apr 2009)
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 8 Jul 2018
Published on Psych All rights reserved.