World Health Organization to classify video game addiction as mental illness

Georgia Reed
December 29, 2017

Next year, people who play an excessive amount of video games could find themselves diagnosed with "gaming disorder".

"Disorders due to addictive behaviors are recognizable and clinically significant syndromes associated with distress or interference with personal functions that develop as a result of repetitive rewarding behaviors other than the use of dependence-producing substances", the gaming-relevant section states.

Increasing priority given to gaming to the extent that gaming takes precedence over other life interests and daily activities. So much so World Health Organization will recognize gaming addiction as a mental disorder.

This would add gaming to a list of other behaviors that can become problematic if people lose control over them, including gambling and disorders related to the use of substances like alcohol, marijuana, caffeine, or nicotine. The mental disorder associated with video gaming must be evident for 12 months, less if the symptoms are severe. In the Beta Draft for its next International Classification of Diseases (via CNN), the organization listed "Gaming Disorder" alongside its gambling counterpart and a number of other addictions.

Experts say whether someone actually suffers from a Gaming Disorder or not could be seen over the course of a year.

Gaming disorder to be named a mental health condition for the first time

"Gaming is highly addictive", said ESET security specialist Mark James, "and it is no wonder so many respondents from our study admit to playing them for so long". That said, "Internet Gaming Disorder" was also proposed for the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) in 2013, but was ultimately slated for further study because of a lack of evidence supporting its inclusion.

Not everyone who plays video games has gaming disorder.

If "gaming disorder" is classified as a mental health disorder, insurance companies and doctors will have to recognize it as such. It could contribute to a stigma around gaming that affects healthy gamers.

Hartl said the new ICD-11 entry on gaming disorder "includes only a clinical description and not prevention and treatment options". Signs include gaming getting in the way of a job, school, or spending time with family and friends.

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