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Gaming disorder is officially recognised as a mental condition

Gaming disorder is officially recognised as a mental condition

This week, after much debate, The World Health Organization (WHO) has officially classified ‘gaming disorder’ as a mental condition. The new classification, outlined in the WHO’s latest International Statistical Classification of Diseases (ICD-11) has resulted in a few raised eyebrows from other health professionals after being published on Monday the 18th June.

Prior to the WHO officially recognising the disorder the American Psychology Association voiced its uncertainties, stating that a lack of scientific research “has not provided clarity on how to define video game addiction (VGA), what symptoms best diagnose it, how prevalent it is, or whether it truly exists as an independent disorder, or, when it occurs is merely symptomatic of other, underlying mental health diagnoses."

However a growing trend of long-term video gaming has led some to raise serious concerns about loved ones, particularly in the cases of parents or partners who find that a family member is spending a disturbing amount of time in front of screens. 

In fact, the Entertainment Software Association’s Essential Facts About the Computer and Video Game Industry report shows that over half (60%) of Americans play video games daily, and each household has an average of two gamers. So, with gaming playing such a significant part of daily life today, it is understandable that debates have been had about what counts as an addiction.

The WHO states that there are three main elements which must be present for gaming disorder to be diagnosed which are:

1) Impaired control over gaming (e.g., onset, frequency, intensity, duration, termination, context);

2) Increasing priority given to gaming to the extent that gaming takes precedence over other life interests and daily activities;

3) Continuation or escalation of gaming despite the occurrence of negative consequences.

And it is asserted that ‘significant impairment in personal, family, social, educational, occupational or other important areas of functioning’ must also take place.

However the WHO is clear that gaming addiction is an incredibly rare condition, and one that many serious gamers wouldn’t qualify as. For a diagnosis to be made the behaviour has to take place over a prolonged amount of time e.g. a year, and must be made by a professional.

Dr. Vladimir Poznyak from the WHO's Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse commented to CNN: "Millions of gamers around the world, even when it comes to the intense gaming, would never qualify as people suffering from gaming disorder.”

The problem with creating a new disorder for video game addiction is that, like many other addictions, it can often stem from other mental disorders. Many of those who fall into dangerous levels of video game playing may have dissatisfaction with everyday life, to which games provide an escape. Additionally, underlying personality disorders could manifest in withdrawing from day-to-day life, resulting in an apparent addiction to video games.

It is yet to be seen how this new classification will play out, or how often it will be used by medical professionals, but it will be interesting to understand further what makes this billion dollar industry tick..

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