Compulsive video-game playing now new mental health problem


On Tuesday, the World Health Organization added "gaming disorder" to its list of recognised and diagnosable diseases, as part of its 11th revision of the International Classification of Diseases.

The disorder affects no more than 3 percent of gamers, the Associated Press reported, with some estimates as low as one percent.

Dr. Shekhar Saxena, director of WHO's department for mental health and substance abuse, said the agency accepted the proposal that gaming disorder should be listed as a new problem based on scientific evidence, in addition to "the need and the demand for treatment in many parts of the world".

However, video gaming addiction appears to be treated in a similar way as how the World Health Organization described a gambling addiction. Among the concerns of skeptics is the possibility that, by explicitly codifying gaming addiction, it could end up heaping further stigma on video games in general.

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Those of us who game, however, have probably indulged ourselves on a binge of The Sims (or whatever your guilty pleasure is). Who stay up, play too much, don't look after themselves, they're willing to throw away friendships over video games.

The ICD identifies about 55,000 separate injuries, diseases, conditions and causes of death, and is widely used as a benchmark for diagnoses and health insurance.

WHO officials also touted more detail on cancer, specifically different types of skin cancer, as well as on heart health and weight disorders; there is also a new chapter on immune system disorders, which will enable better study of allergies.

In its latest edition of the International Classification of Diseases, "gender dysphoria" - or transgenderism, in layman's terms - is not listed as a mental disorder any longer, but as a "gender incongruence", which has also been moved out of the mental disorder category. As you can see here, gaming addiction is still there in the ICD-11.

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The WHO also classifies something it calls "hazardous gaming," which they say "refers to 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".

"The people with gender identity disorder should be not categorized as a mental disorder because in many cases, in many countries it can be stigmatizing, and it can actually decrease their chances of seeking help because of legal provisions in many countries", said Saxena.

People who compulsively play video games could soon be diagnosed with a mental health disorder. The evidence for its inclusion remains highly contested and inconclusive.

"Gaming disorder" has three main characteristics.

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