Video Game Addiction Receives Official Recognition From WHO

WHO declares compulsive video gaming a mental disorder

The World Health Organisation (WHO) handed down its latest iteration of the International Classification of Diseases (ICD), which describes addiction to videogames as being part of a "disorder".

Yesterday the WHO, the United Nations body concerned with global public health, said classing Gaming Disorder as a distinct condition will serve a public health objective for countries to be better prepared to identify this issue.

That doesn't surprise Daniel Kaufmann, a professor at Grand Canyon University who has done research on video game addiction and has offered treatment for it.

The ICD now lists gaming behaviour as disordered if it meets three conditions: if a person loses control over their gaming habits, if they start to prioritise gaming over many other life interests or daily activities, and if they continue playing despite clear negative consequences.

WHO's Saxena, however, estimated that 2 to 3 percent of gamers might be affected.

Clinicians have also debated the validity of establishing a gaming disorder, as it shares many characteristics with other addictive disorders.

Even though almost half of Americans play video games, making the jump to addiction is another thing entirely.

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Licensed professional counselor Paul Fearzig said his first training on gaming addiction was eight years ago and now treats gaming addicted patients about two times a week, some who were gaming more than 20 hours a day.

'We come across parents who are distraught, not only because they're seeing their child drop out of school, but because they're seeing an entire family structure fall apart, ' said Dr. Henrietta Bowden-Jones, a spokeswoman for behavioral addictions at Britain's Royal College of Psychiatrists.

Despite what is - admittedly - a pretty even-handed handling of the situation, gaming organisations from around the world have expressed concern at the its inclusion.

"ICD has to keep pace with evolving disorders and diseases, and this is one of them". Does it mean a person playing puzzles on their phones on the way to work, playing an offline game on their own at home using a console, or does it involve building a custom machine and playing massive online games that pick up players from around the world and playing online? Do you believe that gaming, like other substance-free addictions such as gambling, can really take over your life?

People become obsessed with games because it gives them time to escape, a challenge in playing, a social connection to join with different players around the world.

In spite of what may appear to be universal symptoms, however, the organization is quick to note that the prevalence of gaming disorder, as defined by the WHO, is actually "very low".

The new ICD edition also includes chapters on traditional medicine, which never had been classified, as well as a new chapter on sexual health that brings together conditions previously categorized in other ways.

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