Published: Wed, June 20, 2018
Medicine | By Earnest Bishop

Video gaming addiction is now a mental disorder, says WHO

Video gaming addiction is now a mental disorder, says WHO

Finally, after years of speculation and concern, we may start to get some scientific answers now that the World Health Organization has chose to classify gaming disorder as an addiction, comparable to compulsive gambling or substance abuse.

In its latest revision to an global disease classification manual, the United Nations health agency said Monday that classifying "gaming disorder" as a separate condition will "serve a public health objective for countries to be better prepared to identify this issue".

Yesterday, the World Health Organization announced that it had finalized its 11th International Classification of Diseases, and much like the draft did in December of previous year, it includes the addition of gaming to its section of addictive disorders. In the United Kingdom, the country's National Health Service has now started offering free treatment for those experiencing the disorder, though exactly what treatment would be most effective is still under discussion.

Some experts have warned that video games can be so addictive that children often get up during the night to play them.

The World Health Organization said a gaming disorder is "characterized by a pattern of persistent or recurrent gaming behavior". The American Psychiatric Association identified "Internet Gaming Disorder" as an area for further study in the 2013 version of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, the central resource for identifying and diagnosing disorders in the United States.

Griffiths said playing video games, for the vast majority of people, is more about entertainment and novelty, citing the overwhelming popularity of games like "Pokemon Go".

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This latest version, known as ICD-11, is completely electronic for the first time, in an effort to make it more accessible to doctors and other health workers around the world. Among the concerns of skeptics is the possibility that, by explicitly codifying gaming addiction, it could end up heaping further stigma on video games in general.

The ICD 11 also introduced the related condition of Hazardous gaming.

What has the organization previously said about video game addiction?

"What we're talking about - and what the World Health Organisation is talking about - is the people who can no longer stop, no longer control their use".

Treatment for gaming disorder is generally based in cognitive behavioral therapy, which would generally be done in two phases, Simon Rego, PsyD, chief psychologist at Montefiore Medical Center/Albert Einstein College of Medicine, tells Yahoo Lifestyle. However, the DSM falls short of declaring gaming addiction a legitimate disorder. The WHO has also added a distinct chapter on sexual health for the first time.

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