Gaming disorder added to WHO's list of mental health conditions

Video gaming-123RF

Video gaming-123RF- File

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

The World Health Organisation (WHO) has categorised excessive gaming as an official disorder, adding it to its latest draft of the International Classification of Diseases (ICD) - and the games industry is, unsurprisingly, unimpressed.

The agency said classifying "Gaming Disorder" as a seperate condition will "serve a public health goal for countries to be better prepared to identify this issue".

If you are a video game enthusiast or at least know others that love to spend hours playing games you might be interested in the three major diagnostic features or characteristics of gaming disorder. Most of the roughly 160 million American adults who play games online will not experience the addiction.

According to the organization, the disorder is characterized by an impaired ability to control one's gaming habits, to the extent that it begins to negatively impact their daily activities and supersedes their other interests.

The experts' paper ('A Weak Scientific Basis for Gaming Disorder: Let us err on the side of caution') will appear in the Journal of Behavioral Addictions.

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While treatment for gaming disorder is in its early stages, Saxena says the "message for parents, colleagues, and friends" is to avoid the stigma surrounding the issue and says addicts should be able to seek professional help.

This latest version, 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. Currently, gambling disorder is the only officially recognized behavioral addiction in the USA, unlike in China and South Korea, which have rolled out treatment programs for gaming disorder. This isn't to dismiss the value of gaming disorder entirely, but to highlight the growing concern at moving forward without concrete evidence to support the connection between video games and true real life problems.

ICD-11 also includes changes to sexual health classifications.

The ICD is also used by health insurers in some countries to claim reimbursements based on ICD coding.

ICD-11 will be presented to the World Health Assembly to be voted upon in May 2019, and will go into effect in January 2022.

According to the World Health Organization, the gaming behaviour and related features have to be observed in an individual over a period of 12 months for an official diagnosis to be considered.

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