World Health Organization Recognizes “Gaming Disorder” as an Addiction

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World Health Organization Recognizes “Gaming Disorder” as an Addiction

In its first updated International Compendium of Diseases since 1992, the World Health Organization has created new entries for two gaming-related conditions (as expected). This new draft of the document lists “hazardous gaming” as a health disorder and places “gaming disorder” alongside addictive gambling under the banner of “disorders due to substance use or addictive behavior.”

The WHO further defines each condition within the document: Sufferers of gaming disorder are described as lacking control over how often or how much they play games to the point that such behavior “takes precedence over other life interests and daily activities,” and continues or escalates “despite the occurrence of negative consequences.”

The WHO describes such behavior patterns as being “of sufficient severity to result in significant impairment in personal, family, social, educational, occupational or other important areas of functioning.” While such patterns may be “continuous or episodic and recurrent,” symptoms must be present for at least a year before earning such a diagnosis.

“It is significant because it creates the opportunity for more specialised services. It puts it on the map as something to take seriously,” Dr. Richard Graham, lead technology addiction specialist at the Nightingale Hospital in London, told the BBC.

Hazardous gaming is defined as “a pattern of gaming, either online or offline, that appreciably increases the risk of harmful physical or mental health consequences to the individual or to others around this individual,” adding, “The pattern of gaming often persists in spite of awareness of increased risk of harm to the individuals or to others.”

The WHO goes on to associate numerous factors, “from the frequency of gaming, from the amount of time spent on these activities, from the neglect of other activities and priorities, from risky behaviors associated with gaming or its context, from the adverse consequences of gaming, or from the combination of these,” as contributing to said increased risk.

The timing of this medical designation is not too surprising, as numerous physical and mental health concerns have become more present and discussed in recent years. From Korean internet cafe customers playing games to the point of severe exhaustion or death, to heightened oversight of videogame consumption in Japan and China, to the increasingly raucous debate around the exploitative, addictive nature of blind loot boxes, the WHO recognized the crises that are present and that could be prevented in the future.

The updated ICD won’t be finalized until later this year, so there is still potential for these definitions to change, but these entries already expand the definitions of addiction and disorders in a needed and positive way.

See the WHO’s full updated ICD here.

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