Computer game addicts have dysfunctional traits that may make it easier for them to relate to machines than people, according to a study.
They share some of the characteristics of people with Asperger’s syndrome, a form of autism associated with poor social skills, psychologists found.
Of a total of 391 game players studied, around 3% had symptoms of genuine addiction such as those seen in compulsive gamblers.
These individuals were so dependent on their hobby they missed meals and avoided sleep. Kept away from their computers, they began to suffer withdrawal symptoms.
Gaming addicts tended to be people with low-self esteem, who were emotionally unstable and introverted, Dr John Charlton told the British Psychological Society’s annual meeting in Dublin.
Some of the negative personality traits they displayed were typical of Asperger’s, he said.
People with the autistic disorder find it hard to interact socially and lack empathy, the ability to recognise and respond to the feelings of others.
Addicted gamers may find it easier to empathise with computer systems than human beings, said Dr Charlton, from the University of Bolton.
Up to 1.2% of the general population suffers from Asperger’s.
Most of those affected are male – and 86% of the gamers who showed signs of addiction were men.