The World Health Organization Has Officially Designated Video Game Addiction As A Disease


Aliyah Kovner 19 Jun 2018, 00:22

By now, it should be no surprise to hear that spending too much time looking at screens is detrimental to one’s wellbeing. From messing with circadian rhythms to disrupting sexual function to inducing depression and anxiety, scientific research has proven that our increasingly digital lifestyle can have serious consequences if one does not remember to unplug from time to time.

Yet doing so can be quite difficult, given that the applications and services we use, plus the devices themselves, were designed to addict us. One of the most cunning offenders? Video games.

This week, the World Health Organization – arguably the leading source for designating what things are bad for us – announced that “gaming disorder” will be included in the latest edition of their bible, the International Classification of Diseases.

“A decision on inclusion of gaming disorder in ICD-11 is based on reviews of available evidence and reflects a consensus of experts from different disciplines and geographical regions that were involved in the process of technical consultations undertaken by WHO in the process of ICD-11 development.”

According to the organization, the disorder is characterized by an impaired ability to control one’s gaming habits, to the extent that it begins to negatively impact their daily activities and supersedes their other interests. To be diagnosed, the behavior pattern must be severe enough that it interferes with aspects of personal, family, social, educational, and/or occupational functioning for at least 12 months. (Of course, only a very small fraction of the world's 2.6 billion gamers fit these criteria.)

The recognition comes five years after the American Psychiatric Association added “Internet Gaming Disorder” to their latest list of disorders, the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders edition 5 (or DSM-5), as a ‘Condition for Further Study’ – meaning that leaders in the field are aware of the issue and want to see more research.

Having the condition officially described by the WHO will help facilitate such academic investigations, and could have the added benefit of leveraging insurance companies to cover therapeutic interventions.  

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