World Health Organization classifies video game addiction as a disease

Florence Lopez
June 20, 2018

The World Health Organisation has released its new International Classification of Diseases (ICD-11).

For the first time, the World Health Organization is adding Gaming disorder to the section on Mental and Addictive Disorders in its new International Classification of Diseases.

That means doctors can diagnose and offer treatment to someone with the condition.

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. "If (video games) are interfering with the expected functions of the person - whether it is studies, whether it's socialization, whether it's work - then you need to be cautious and perhaps seek help".

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

Gaming disorder is defined as a pattern of gaming behavior characterised by impaired control over gaming, as well as increasing priority given to gaming over other activities to the extent that gaming takes precedence over other daily activities.

"The pattern of gaming behaviour may be continuous or episodic and recurrent", reads the WHO's classification of gaming disorder. The overwhelming majority of video game adepts are young, many in their teens.

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"We acknowledge there could be benefits to formalising gaming disorder, many of which were highlighted by colleagues in their commentaries, but we think they do not yet outweigh the wider societal and public health risks involved".

"We expect (the re-categorisation) will reduce stigma", Lale Say, the coordinator of WHO's department of reproductive health and research, told news-agency AFP on Tuesday.

Those who disagree with the WHO's categorisation of excessive gaming as an addictive disorder are, therefore, expected to appeal against its inclusion. As you can see here, gaming addiction is still there in the ICD-11.

The ICD 11 also introduced the related condition of Hazardous gaming. Gambling disorder was in ICD-10, but gaming disorder relates to "digital or video gaming".

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

The ICD is also used by health insurers in some countries to claim reimbursements based on ICD coding.

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, WHO said in a statement.

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