Video game addiction is now officially recognised as an illness

Video game addiction is now officially recognised as an illness

Finally, after years of speculation and concern, we may start to get some scientific answers now that the World Health Organization has chose to classify gaming disorder as an addiction, comparable to compulsive gambling or substance abuse.

Geneva: The World Health Organisation (WHO) has now included "gaming disorder" as a mental health condition in its new edition of International Classification of Diseases, ICD-11.

From playing "Fortnite" in their own homes for hours, to wandering city streets collecting Pokemon on their phones - many people are obsessed with video games. There is no doubt that there are people who are likely to end up addicted to playing games, although this is more likely a symptom of some other issue.

"This does not mean everyone who engages in gaming has a disorder", emphasized Shekhar Saxena, MD, the WHO's director of the Department for Mental Health and Substance Abuse, who noted that the definition involves impaired control over gaming and increased priority given to it over usual activities.

The organization's 2018 International Classification of Diseases considers video game addiction as a mental disorder, and is due to an "addictive disorder". The U.S. video game industry - through its Entertainment Software Association lobbying group - threw its support behind several academics who opposed the WHO's efforts when it confirmed past year that they would include "gaming disorder" as a condition.

The World Health Organization's global list of diseases is getting an update.


The wording of the new entries has been known since January, when the World Health Organization announced problem gaming would be recognised as a pathological condition.

Additionally, WHO lists both online and offline gaming as a disorder, but the former can be an enriching experience as users can forge friendships and even romantic relationships through multiplayer games.

What's your stance in gaming addiction?

"People that tend to have a problem with scratching their video game habits are going to suffer in life areas like work or relationships, or friendships or school", he said. "It is concerning to see the "gaming disorder" proposal in this draft despite significant opposition from the medical and scientific community".

WHO's latest catalogue also has a new chapter on traditional medicine, which previously went unmentioned, despite being used by millions of people around the world.

The ICD-11 isn't yet finished, though: The publication won't be endorsed as a final release until 2019, and won't be fully adopted until 2022. While mental health practitioners are one key audience, the document is also instrumental among health insurers, who use its classifications to decide on reimbursement and more.

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