It’s Official: Video Game Addiction Is Real

The World Health Organization (WHO) has officially declared video game addiction as a disease. So if you feel like you or someone you know plays video games for too long and too often they may well be suffering from a recognized medical disorder.

This has been coming for some time. In January 2018, the first draft of the 11th edition of The International Classification of Diseases (ICD-11) was published. Gaming disorder was included for the first time, leading us to suggest gaming addiction is a disease.

What Is Gaming Disorder?

It’s now officially official, with the World Health Assembly formally adopting ICD-11. Which includes an entry for what the WHO calls “Gaming disorder”. This is a condition listed after “Gambling disorder,” and it uses much of the same language.

Signs of gaming disorder include “a pattern of persistent or recurrent gaming behavior (‘digital gaming’ or ‘video-gaming’), which may be online (i.e., over the internet) or offline.” This will lead to “impaired control over gaming.”

Sufferers may show “increasing priority given to gaming to the extent that gaming takes precedence over other life interests and daily activities” and the “continuation or escalation of gaming despite the occurrence of negative consequences.”

Representatives from the video game industry, including the Entertainment Software Association and European Games Developer Federation have called on the WHO to rethink the decision. In all, 10 organizations put their name to a statement reading:

“The WHO is an esteemed organization and its guidance needs to be based on regular, inclusive, and transparent reviews backed by independent experts. Gaming disorder is not based on sufficiently robust evidence to justify its inclusion in one of the WHO’s most important norm-setting tools.”

Assuming the video game industry fails in its efforts to stop “Gaming disorder” becoming a thing, ICD-11 will come into effect on January 1, 2022. At which point, video game addiction will be officially recognized as a disorder, at least according to the WHO.

Don’t Play Video Games to Excess

The decision to classify video game addiction as a disease was always going to be controversial. The problem, as with most addictions, is where to draw the line. By including it in ICD-11, the WHO can at least study the impact of playing video games to excess.

There is evidence that video games are addicting. So our advice is to game in moderation, as anything done to excess can be harmful. In the same way you wouldn’t spend 18 hours a day eating, don’t play video games for 18 hours a day.

Image Credit: Andy Simmons/Flickr

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