JUN 27, 2018 4:57 AM PDT

It's Official: WHO Says Gaming Disorder is a Mental Health Condition

The World Health Organization (WHO) publishes a guide called the International Classification of Disease. It gets revised every so often, and the revised beta versions are usually published online ahead of the final version.

In March in the beta version of the latest revision of the WHO ICD-11 included the proposed addition of “Gaming Disorder.” The guide is meant to provide information and data on diseases, conditions, and diagnoses to patients, health care providers, and scientists. 

The final version is now available and the WHO has kept the condition of Gaming Disorder in the volume. The addition of a mental health condition related to online gaming was controversial and not all experts agree. The WHO is not the only medical organization looking at the question of addiction to online games. A similar medical manual, The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) has "Internet Gaming Disorder" as a proposed addition to their document, but that decision is still under review.   

It’s the first time that video and internet games have been cited as a health problem in any major manual. The disorder is described in the WHO ICD-11 as, “impaired control over gaming, increasing the 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. For gaming disorder to be diagnosed, the behavior pattern must be of sufficient severity to result in significant impairment in personal, family, social, educational, occupational or other important areas of functioning and would normally have been evident for at least 12 months."

 Not everyone agrees with the inclusion, however. Dr. Peter Etchells, who is a senior lecturer at Bath Spa University, spoke at the Science Media Centre in London and was quoted by the BBC as stating, "It sets us on a potentially slippery slope. We're essentially pathologizing a hobby, so what's next? There are studies on tanning addiction, dance addiction, exercise addiction, but nobody is having a conversation about including them in ICD 11. I don't think policy should be informed by moral panics, which is what it feels like is happening at the moment."

Many experts feel that the research on video games, as well as other use of screens by children, is not conclusive. For every study that shows video games could be detrimental, it seems there is another study that shows there are some benefits. Declaring video game play as a mental health condition could be premature. Many science professionals believe there is not enough research to validate it as a true disorder versus a hobby that some are passionate about. 

In an interview with CNN Dr. Vladimir Poznyak, a member of the WHO's Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse, which proposed the new diagnosis stated,  “I'm not creating a precedent” but is instead following "the trends, the developments, which have taken place in populations and in the professional field." He points to the criteria that the disorder must exist for at least 12 months, and cannot be made based on a binge of a few days of play, such as happens when a new game comes out and fans initially spend hours trying to complete it. The video below has more information on the classification of gaming disorder by the WHO, check it out. 

Sources: CNN, WHO, BBC

About the Author
  • I'm a writer living in the Boston area. My interests include cancer research, cardiology and neuroscience. I want to be part of using the Internet and social media to educate professionals and patients in a collaborative environment.
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