ORLANDO, Fla. - So you think your teenager is addicted to Xbox?
You may be right - and if the prestigious American Medical Association has its way, video-game addiction could become a legitimate medical condition.
It may sound like a bunch of hooey to a nation of game enthusiasts, but next week, at the AMA's meeting in Chicago, delegates will vote on a recommendation that "Internet/video-game addiction" be classified as a formal diagnosis.
For 160 years, the AMA has made national health recommendations that are quickly adopted.
They range from recommending that all cars be equipped with seat belts to calling for annual mammograms for women older than 50.
Not everyone is buying into this new malady, though. Some might compare it to a gambling addiction, but others see this as a lightweight diagnosis, akin to a shopping addiction.
"I'm an addiction skeptic," said Steve Jones, a communications professor at the University of Illinois and a research fellow with the Pew Internet & American Life Project. "Just because any activity might interfere with other activities is not enough to call it an addiction."
An AMA report notes that the heaviest game players are those who play MMORPGs - massive multiplayer online role-playing games such as World of Warcraft.
Those players, says the AMA, are more likely to be socially isolated - and probably addicted.
That is no surprise to 17-year-old Eric Frisella of Orlando. Eric, who plays World of Warcraft, sometimes wonders whether he might be addicted to the game.
During the school year, he says he plays about 30 hours a week - often staying up until 1 a.m. playing every night.
"I can definitely see how it's possible for people to get addicted," Eric said. "There are times when I think I could be, but then I realize I can have a lot more fun hanging out in the real world with my friends."
In his practice, Dr. Joseph Keeley, an Orlando pediatrician, says he has seen evidence of addiction.
"There are some kids who clearly act like they're addicted, and, when you take them off, they'll go through withdrawal. They'll get irritable and hard to live with," Keeley said.
The problem hit home when he drove his daughter to Northwestern University last fall.
There, a Northwestern dean told him that 3 percent to 4 percent of the freshmen boys move into the dormitory, get their high-speed Internet hooked up - and never go to class.
"Needless to say, that's troublesome," Keeley said.
Jones, the University of Illinois professor who has studied college students' use of video games, said American society overreacts to new technology - particularly when it involves children.
He said it started back in the 1920s, when there was hand-wringing about how movies were causing children to spend too much time inside.
"Fast forward, we started to hear the same thing about TV, then about comic books, the same thing about rock 'n' roll, the same thing about rap music and the same thing about the Internet," Jones said. "It's just a pattern."
Technically the AMA vote would only be a first step, because it then would pass the baton to the American Psychiatric Association, which publishes the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, the primary handbook used to diagnose mental illnesses and disorders.
The psychiatric association takes the AMA's recommendation seriously, said Dr. James Scully, the APA medical director.
"We, along with them, share a concern for children's well-being, and children who spend too much time playing video games is a concern, especially video games that contain violence," Scully said.
The medical community, unlike the virtual community, doesn't move quickly.
So gamers shouldn't hold their breath waiting for "video-game addiction" to become part of medical parlance. Or to be hauled off to the doctor's office by their parents.
Indeed, five more editions of Madden NFL will debut before the American Psychiatric Association weighs in on video-game addiction.
After all, the next edition of Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders is due out in 2012.