Gaming disorder is now classified as a mental health condition

Frederick Owens
June 20, 2018

Someone who plays video games for a few hours each day could be known simply as a devoted gamer, but the World Health Organization (WHO) has a new classification for those who take it much further than that, to a point where it becomes a serious impairment.

The second one is "impaired control of these behaviors", so that even when negative consequences occur, people continue to play games. "These include gaming disorder, which evidence shows is enough of a health problem that it requires tracking through the ICD". It is concerning to see the "gaming disorder" proposal in this draft despite significant opposition from the medical and scientific community.

Simply playing a lot of video games does not automatically mean that someone has a problem. The games industry, though, disagrees.

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Griffiths said playing video games, for the vast majority of people, is more about entertainment and novelty, citing the overwhelming popularity of games like Pokemon Go.

The ICD is an annual publication released by the WHO which is used internationally as a 'standard diagnostic tool for health management and clinical purposes'.

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The bulk of the changes discussed at a press conference today centered around the change that "gender incongruence" has moved from a classification of mental health to one of sexual health, and that a new gaming disorder has been added to the mental health part of the codes. "The gaming behaviour and other features are normally evident over a period of at least 12 months in order for a diagnosis to be assigned, although the required duration may be shortened if all diagnostic requirements are met and symptoms are severe". The World Health Organization says classifying "Gaming Disorder" as a separate condition will "serve a public health goal for countries to be better prepared to identify this issue".

The goal of including gaming disorder in the ICD is, in part, to bring more attention to the issue and raise the visibility of treatments for those seeking help for excessive video game playing, World Health Organization said. Gambling disorder was in ICD-10, but gaming disorder relates to "digital or video gaming". The evidence for its inclusion remains highly contested and inconclusive.

"It enables us to understand so much about what makes people get sick and die, and to take action to prevent suffering and save lives", WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said as the ICD was published.

The ICD is the basis for identification of health trends and statistics globally and the worldwide standard for reporting diseases and health conditions.

The other notable addition was a diagnosis of gaming disorder, which is new to ICD-11.

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