MAR 15, 2018 07:13 AM PDT
WHO Classifies Gaming Disorder as a Disease
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The World Health Organization (WHO) publishes a guide called the International Classification of Disease. It's currently being revised but is online in the Beta version. In each revision, information and data on diseases, conditions, and diagnoses are collected from all over the world so that the document is a resource for patients, healthcare providers, and scientists.

The WHO sets the standard that many other organizations, both medical and social, go by when classifying medical or social issues. The current revision, when finalized will be the WHO ICD-11.

What makes this revision different is that for the first time, the WHO has classified gaming disorder as an illness. 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. The WHO ICD-11 describes gaming disorder 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."

The inclusion of gaming disorder in the ICD-11 is significant because on a global basis it's the standard for monitoring health trends, disease statistics and social trends that impact health. When countries are trying to decide their public health policies, or plan global health strategies, the guide is the blueprint for how to proceed, because of the information on health trends, disease prevention, and social circumstances. The edition including gaming disorder should be final in mid-2018, but for now, the addition of gaming disorder is causing some debate in the medical community.

In an interview with CNN, Chris Ferguson, a professor of psychology at Stetson University in Florida called the ICD, "The book of real diseases that you can get insurance payments for. People who have treatment centers for video game addiction or a gaming disorder will now be able to get reimbursed. In the past, they have not. It will be a financial boon for those centers." Ferguson explained that having the ICD-11 and the DSM-5 with different definitions for what is essentially the same condition is not an ideal situation. The American Psychiatric Association is responsible for compiling the DSM-5, and usually the WHO and the APA would want to be together on this issue, but for now, it seems the two guides will each have their own interpretation of the disorder.

Ferguson believes that what the WHO describes as gaming disorder might be a manifestation of some other mental issue. It could also be fluid; if a person is experiencing mental health issues, excessive gaming might be how they cope, temporarily. If a person is assessed for the disorder at the onset, but then six months later does not meet the criteria, was there a separate disorder happening, or was it a coping mechanism? It remains to be seen if the DSM-5 classification is significantly different, but in the meantime, experts are watching how healthcare providers and other organizations incorporate gaming disorder in their fields. The video below from the WHO answers more questions about the inclusion of gaming disorder in the latest revision of the ICD-11, take a look.

Sources: WHO, CNN, ICD-11 Beta Draft

  • 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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