World Health Org Classifies Video Game Addiction as Mental Health Disorder

The World Health Organization recently designated video game addiction as a qualified mental health disorder, renewing the debate about the role of video games in our society.
John Loeffler

This weekend, the World Health Organization announced that video game addiction would now be classified as a qualified mental health disorder in their International Classification of Diseases.

Video Game Addiction Classified as a Qualified Mental Health Disorder

Sure to reignite the debate over the social and emotional effects of video games in our lives, NBC News and Reuters are reporting that the World Health Organization (WHO) has classified video game addiction as a qualified mental health disorder in their latest update to their International Classification of DIseases (ICD), a major reference manual that doctors and pathologists use to recognize and diagnose various medical conditions.


According to the ICD, addiction to video games is "a pattern of persistent or recurrent gaming behavior, which may be online or offline, manifested by impaired control over gaming, increasing priority given to gaming to the extent that gaming takes precedence over other life interests and daily activities and continuation or escalation of gaming despite the occurrence of negative consequences."

We aren't talking about the occassional Mario Kart Party here though. Shekhar Saxena, the WHO's expert on substance abuse and mental health described that some of the most extreme cases of video gaming addiction identified in research involved video game players who played for as many as 20 hours in a day, passing up not just other social activities but also food and sleep.

Saxena wants to stress that there are many, many gamers who have a perfectly healthy relationship with video games, it's just a small minority of gamers who are susceptible to video game addiction. Given the sometimes isolating nature of video games, early intervention is essential in many cases as prevention is the best treatment for addiction disorders.


Saxena said in for the vast majority, bouts of intense gameplay "is an occasional or transitory behavior," saying that problems emerge when the excessive gaming continues for a year or more, which might make a diagnosis of video game addiction disorder appropriate. The Video Games Coalition, an industry group representing video game manufacturers, said that video games are "enjoyed safely and sensibly by more than 2 billion people worldwide" and that there is also evidence pointing to the "educational, therapeutic, and recreational value" of video games that the group believes the WHO gave insufficient weight when making their determination.

The ICD, along with the American Physchiatric Association's (APA) DSM-5 and other medical diagnostic manuals for physical and mental health conditions and disorders are given considerable weight in the medical profession and new conditions aren't just thrown in willy-nilly. The APA have been debating the issue of video game addiction for a while now without coming to a concensus and the American Medical Association reversed themselves when they considered the question of video game addiction back in 2007.

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