Over the weekend, the World Health Organization announced that it would recognize ‘Gaming disorder’ — essentially, video game addiction — as an official, internationally recognized disease. After a year and a half of debate, the disorder, which was listed on the International Statistical Classification of Disease and Related Health Problems in 2017, was recognized by all 194 member states. The new revision of the classification list will go into effect in 2022.
The WHO defines gaming disorder as a ‘pattern of persistent and recurrent gaming behavior (‘digital gaming’ or ‘video-gaming) which may be online (i.e., over the internet) or offline.” The definition lists problematic behavior that comes alongside the persistent gaming which includes but is not limited to impaired control over the time spent gaming, increasing priority given to gaming to the extent that it takes over daily activities, and gaming that results in impairment to family, social, and other parts of life.
There has been some controversy in the past over whether or not gaming addiction is real. While the WHO has moved forward in classifying it as a psychologist condition, the American Psychiatric Association excluded it from it’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders in 2013, saying the condition needed to be studied further. Many psychologists suspect that including gaming as an addiction will amount to little more than moral panic and fear mongering. There are studies that show that gaming does help increase memory skills and helps kids think on their feet. But others see it as a huge step forward, including Dr. John Jiao, an MD from California.
When addressing the criticism of the inclusion of gaming disorder, Dr. Jiao said in a series of tweets: “Gaming itself is not a disorder.” He went on to describe how gaming does become problematic, explaining that when it gets in the way of real life and damages other interests, then it becomes a real problem, which lines up with the WHO definition of the disorder.
Why might we need an official diagnosis, you ask?
Because otherwise people with real, legitimate video game addiction can often have trouble with insurance paying for their therapy, especially if they don't fit any other diagnosis (not clinically depressed, for example).
— John Jiao, MD (@JohnJiao) May 25, 2019
“It’s actually a sorely needed diagnosis… Because otherwise people with real, legitimate video game addiction can often have trouble with insurance paying for their therapy, especially if they don’t fit any other diagnosis (not clinically depressed, for example,” he wrote.