WHO Says Video Game Addiction Is a Mental Health Disorder

Gaming addiction is “a pattern of persistent or recurrent gaming behavior” so severe it “takes precedence over other life interests,” said the WHO.

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Video Game Addiction Mental Health Disorder

The World Health Organization (WHO) said that addiction to video games is a mental health disorder. Well, this WHO finding could help many parents to limit their children’s ‘screen time.’

According to the latest version of the WHO’s International Classification of Diseases (ICD), which is a reference bible of recognized and diagnosable medical conditions, has described addiction to digital and video gaming as “a pattern of persistent or recurrent gaming behavior” that becomes so extensive it “takes precedence over other life interests.”

Dr. Shekhar Saxena, the WHO’s expert on mental health and substance abuse, noted that some of the worst health issues seen in global research were associated with gamers playing for more than 20 hours a day and giving up sleep, food, work, school or other daily chores.

He also noted that only a few people who play digital and video games would develop a mental health problem. He, however, said that recognizing early warning signs could help prevent the problem.

Dr. Saxena said, “This is an occasional or transitory behavior.” He added that if such behavior lasts long for more than a year, it could help diagnose a mental health disorder.

The Video Games Coalition said their gaming products were “enjoyed safely and sensibly by more than 2 billion people worldwide across all kinds of genres, devices and platforms.” It added, “The educational, therapeutic, and recreational value of games was well-founded and widely recognized.” The industry lobby group has urged the WHO to reconsider its findings.

The WHO’s ICD has been updated over the past 10 years, which covers 55,000 injuries, medical conditions, and causes of death. It helps the WHO and other medical experts to look at the figures and respond to health trends.

WHO Director-General Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said in a statement, “It enables us to understand so much about what makes people get sick and die, and to take action to prevent suffering and save lives.” Even health insurance companies use the ICD for reimbursements that depend on ICD classifications.

This latest version of ICD is called ICD-11, which has been made electronic for the first time so it is accessible to physicians and other medical workers across the world.

The latest ICD version has also included changes to sexual health classifications. For example, previous ICD version had categorized sexual dysfunction and gender incongruence under mental health conditions, while in the latest version, these have been moved to the sexual health section.

The WHO also includes a new chapter on traditional medicine in ICD-11. According to the WHO statement, “The updated ICD is scheduled to be presented to WHO member states at their annual World Health Assembly in May 2019 for adoption in January 2022.