"Gaming Disorder" Officially Recognized As Mental Health Condition

By Victoria Kim 06/19/18

The World Health Organization decided to classify the condition so more health care professionals would be "alerted to its existence." 

man playing video games at night

The World Health Organization just added “gaming disorder” to its official International Classification of Diseases (ICD).

Gaming disorder was officially added to the 11th edition of the ICD, released Monday. While health care professionals are divided on whether gaming disorder should be included—one expert called it "a little bit premature" to label this as a diagnosis—officials with WHO explained that the intent of the official classification is to raise awareness about gaming disorder and make it possible for more people to recognize it and seek help.

The intent was not to “[create] a precedent,” but for health care professionals to be “more alerted to the existence of this condition” and ensure that “people who suffer from these conditions can get appropriate help,” Dr. Vladimir Poznyak of WHO’s Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse told CNN.

The International Classification of Diseases defines the universe of diseases, disorders, injuries and other related health conditions, according to the WHO website.

Gaming disorder is defined in the 11th version “as a pattern of gaming behavior characterized by impaired control over gaming, increasing priority given to gaming over other activities to the extent that gaming takes precedence over other interests and daily activities, and continuation or escalation of gaming despite the occurrence of negative consequences.”

According to the website, the decision to include gaming disorder follows the development of treatment programs for people with health conditions identical to those characteristic of gaming disorder in many parts of the world.

According to Poznyak, a diagnosis of gaming disorder would refer to a “persistent or recurrent” behavior pattern of “sufficient severity” that has persisted for at least one year.

Poznyak explained the three main diagnostic traits of gaming disorder. “One is that the gaming behavior takes precedence over other activities to the extent that other activities are taken to the periphery,” he told CNN. The second is showing a lack of control over the behavior: “Even when the negative consequences occur, this behavior continues or escalates.”

And third, one’s personal, family, social, education or occupational life is affected negatively—this may include “disturbed sleep patterns, like diet problems, like a deficiency in the physical activity,” Poznyak explained.

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