WHO lists ‘gaming disorder’ as mental health condition
Friday, June 29, 2018
In response to international pressure, the World Health Organization (WHO) has now listed "gaming disorder" in the 11th edition of the International Classification of Diseases (ICD-11). Released on June 25, the new ICD-11 listing hopes to create awareness and potential treatment options for those who maybe suffering from this often-mocked condition.
Many comedy sketches have portrayed a teen or young adult sitting in their parents’ basement playing online games for all hours of the day. However, despite this cultural phenomenon, there is little options for treatment for those who may have serious consequences due to these behaviors. The WHO hopes to shed some much-needed light on this evolving condition.
The WHO defines gaming disorders as "a pattern of gaming behavior (‘digital-gaming’ or ‘video-gaming’) characterized by impaired control over gaming, increasing 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." It further states that the negative impact must last at least 12 months, representing an ongoing problem.
The main characteristics are very similar to substance-use disorders or gambling disorders in that the patient’s life choices become severely impaired. However, like gambling disorders, the new gaming disorder has no psychoactive substance use, but can clearly become just as addictive.
Although the American Psychological Association listed gaming disorder as a "Condition for Further Study" in the DSM-5 in 2014, it still concedes that more research is needed before officially recognizing it as a stand-alone disorder. Experts note that gaming disorder is often a symptom of another mental disorder, such as anxiety or depression, that may go undiagnosed and untreated based on the excessive use of gaming as a coping mechanism.
The gaming industry — with 2.6 billion people playing video games globally — expects its annual revenue to grow 31 percent to $180.1 billion globally within the next three years. In the month of April alone, the new blockbuster, "Fortnite," made almost $300 million, doubling its revenue from February.
So, with big money at play, it is no surprise that the Entertainment Software Association came out strong with a press release refuting WHO’s "lack of objective scientific support" urging the process be halted based on research by 36 internationally renowned and respected experts who oppose the creation of a new gaming disorder classification.
Although the new classification is not the answer to a complex situation, it certainly does open the dialogue and opportunities for research, along with shedding light on a serious situation. The WHO hopes to legitimize the disease in the U.S. with the hopes that individuals will seek and receive treatment, which will hopefully be covered by insurance.
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