WHO to classify gaming addiction as a mental disorder


The World Health Organization (WHO) released the latest edition of its International Compendium of Diseases, adding “gaming disorder” and “hazardous gaming” to the updated version.

According to WHO’s definition, the disorder is characterized by a pattern of persistent or recurrent gaming behaviour (‘digital gaming’ or ‘video-gaming’), which may be online (i.e., over the internet) or offline, manifested by “impaired control over gaming, an increasing priority given to gaming to the extent that gaming takes precedence over other life interests and daily activities and continuation or escalation of gaming despite the occurrences of negative consequences.

WHO also defines “hazardous gaming as „a pattern of gaming, either online or offline that appreciably increases the risk of harmful physical or mental health consequences to the individual or to others around this individual.

“Common sense and objective research prove video games are not addictive. And, putting that official label on them recklessly trivializes real mental health issues like depression and social anxiety disorder, which deserve treatment and the full attention of the medical community“ states the Entertainment Software Association (ESA), a representative of the US video game industry, which at the same time  issued a demand to WHO to reverse the direction of the proposed action.

UK social media expert Sylvia Korsak noted that adding these disorders to WHO list will benefit both medical professionals engaged in prevention and curing addiction, and also incite wider public debate about these issues.

„Gaming is not exactly a taboo topic but the opinions about it are divided and not always informed, which does not help the actual individuals who enjoy gaming and feel a positive impact of it, nor the gamers who struggle with addictive behaviors but simply cannot seek professional help. There are increasingly more and more rehabs, camps and other ideas to help, but an average parent or spouse might suffer and struggle because the web and the mainstream media scare us, terrify us even and simply don’t offer any practical solutions,” Korsak wrote on her blog.

Still, despite this warning by WHO, the newly classified disorders are not the focus of their work. On their website they point out that the biggest global health challenges in 2017 included lack of vaccinations to prevent epidemics such as meningitis, and reducing mortality from cholera and famine.

Photo: Piotr Drabik via Wikipedia, CC BY 2.0.

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