The other day I was perusing Facebook and stumbled upon something that I had to look at twice. There’s no way I could’ve read that headline correctly.
At first I thought it was completely satire, a Babylon Bee article hitting the nail on the head once again. As I continued to read I quickly realized that this headline was completely and totally serious. Apparently, video game addiction is now a legitimate mental disorder. The WHO (World Health Organization...not the band) now classifies gaming addiction as a mental disorder. To be honest, when I first read this headline I laughed out loud and shrugged it off as just another sign that our society is simply crazy. My mind was running through all of the satirical articles and “testimonies“ that were sure to be coming out shortly. I admit that my mind usually goes to very comical places when I see most news headlines. This probably is not a good thing. Then I began to think about it a little bit more. I started to think about why I thought this was so funny. What was it with this article that I found so hilarious? Aside from the obvious millennial jokes that are very low hanging fruit in this scenario, I think that there is a deeper issue here that we as Christians should be concerned about. There is actually a very serious danger in our society’s infatuation with labeling things mental disorders or diseases. This new “disorder“ is simply a sign, not so much that our society is crazy, as my first thoughts implied, but that our society is sick and in desperate need of perspective and correct thinking.
Why A Disorder?
Pretty much anything can be classified as a disorder in our society today. All it takes is for someone to claim they cannot control the specific behavior and they can be classified as having a mental disorder. Even common, every day emotions or thoughts that all people experience and go through are labeled as diseases or metal disorders. Why is our society so quick to label something a mental disorder or disease? Why are they so quick to throw this label out? Why is the list of mental disorders growing exponentially every year? Some will say that it’s simply because we are becoming more aware of the different struggles that people have. I personally don’t buy this explanation. I agree with Scripture when it says that there is “nothing new under the sun.” Men and women have been struggling with the same issues since the beginning of time, the issues are just packaged differently as time goes on. The root of the problem has never changed, just how the problem is manifested. I believe that our society is very quick to put the term “mental disorder“ on something because of the connotations and implications that specific branding brings.
Off The Hook
The implications of a certain issue being a mental disorder are very clear. The way our society defines and deals with mental disorders is through the presupposition that it’s not something the individual can control. Whatever the specific disorder this person has, it’s not their fault. If someone is depressed, anxious, struggles with anger, addicted to porn or plays too many video games, this is classified as a mental disorder. Something wrong with their mind. The common thinking with mental disorders in our society is always that the individual is the victim and is being afflicted with a disease.
Now there are such things as real diseases that affect people. This is obvious. Cancer, AIDS, ALS, and many more diseases affect people every day. These are not diseases that can be controlled by the individual. However, our society has now taken addiction and classified it as a disorder and disease. It is my believe that one of the main reasons our society is so quick to label addiction a mental disorder is because it takes away the responsibility from the individual. If they can point to their issue and claim it as a disease, they are able to remove from themselves any amount of responsibility for what they are struggling with. It gets them off the hook. It sadly creates a victim mentality and a feeling of hopelessness. Now please do not get the impression that I believe depression, anxiety, anger, porn or other issues that are classified as disorders are not a big deal. I completely understand that there are many people who greatly suffer from hard issues and whose lives are very difficult because of them. I am simply saying that just categorizing these issues as a disease or mental disorder is actually doing more harm to the individual than good. At the end of the day, if it is a disease, the individual is left with an incorrect perspective of their plight and an incorrect way to deal with it.
Unbiblical Diagnosis, Unbiblical Prescription
An unbiblical diagnosis will always lead to an unbiblical prescription. This is something we must remember when discussing topics of this nature. The real problem people have that leads to addiction is a heart that was made for worshiping God and has turned away to worship idols. Whether this is alcohol, drugs, or video games, the heart attaches itself and gives worship to what it deems it is most important. Also, the heart gravitates toward that which it deems will give it the most satisfaction. When we are talking about addiction and mental illness we must remember that the heart and the mind are depraved and turn toward anything other than God in their natural state. With a society that attempts to place blame for addiction and mental illness upon external sources that are not able to be controlled, the Bible places the blame squarely upon the sinful heart of man.
I truly believe that we as a society hate to take blame or ownership for our failures and shortcomings. This is part of our nature. We see this in Scripture as Adam and Eve try to hide from God in the garden and cast blame for their sin on each other and the serpent. We try to hide our guilt and look for ways to escape talking responsibly. What our society doesn’t understand is that we have a problem that is greater than simply our behavior. It’s a problem of the heart. It’s a sin problem. We have a worship disorder. We were made to worship God, but instead we worship whatever it is our sinful hearts go after.
So what is the correct perspective in this situation? When we hear the world say we are helpless and call idolatry a disorder or metal illness, what do we do? How do we respond? I think we respond the same way as we do with any idolatry. Recognize it for what it is and place God back on the throne of your heart. We must realize we are a sinful people who’s hearts are pulled in every direction except toward Heaven. When the world calls idolatry a metal illness we must remember our theology. Don’t let the world define the terms. Scripture already does this. Remember that we are sinners and Christ is a great savior. So when society begins to say we are helpless and not in control of what is happening in our heads, remember that we have the Holy Sprit and He gives us the ability to be of sound mind. Gaming disorder is simply a heart that has placed its affections and allegiance upon something other than God, in this case its video games. Addiction to drugs, alcohol or porn is the same thing. The root is idolatry and we must see it for what it is and prescribe the correct solution. Addiction must be addressed and handled the way Scripture prescribes. The Gospel of Christ is the solution.