World Health Organization Declares Video Game Addiction An Official Disorder

Magnus Health
July 26, 2018
Blog, Student Health
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World Health Organization Declares Video Game Addiction An Official Disorder

In the most recent draft of the 2018 International Classification of Diseases (ICD), the World Health Organization (WHO) now includes a section on “Gaming Disorder.” The new chapter focuses on disorders caused by the addictive nature of excessive online video game playing. However, merely playing video games for long periods of time doesn’t necessarily qualify a person as having an addictive disorder – the behavior has to significantly impair a person’s personal, family, social, or educational life.

Video GamersPexels

The ICD guide contains codes for diseases and symptoms for use by doctors and researchers to further study, diagnose, and track diseases like Gaming Disorder. Some symptoms include impaired control over the intensity, duration, and frequency of gaming, increased priority given to gaming, and continuation or escalation of gaming despite adverse consequences. The ICD suggests that these symptoms be present for at least a year to be classified as abnormal.

Dr. Richard Graham, lead technology addiction specialist at the Nightingale Hospital in London, praised the decision to recognize video game addiction as an official medical condition. Dr. Graham sees approximately 50 new cases of digital addiction every year and bases his diagnoses on whether or not the activity is affecting essential functions such as eating and sleeping. “It is significant because it creates the opportunity for more specialized services, it puts it on the map as something to take seriously,” he told the BBC. However, Graham is not without his concerns regarding the potential misdiagnosis of the Gaming Disorder, “It could lead to confused parents whose children are just enthusiastic gamers.”

Video game controllerPexelsIn a review of research published by the American Psychological Association video games can have a significant, positive impact on a child’s learning and social skills Even games depicting high levels of violence can have some benefits. Studies have shown that action and “shooter” video games can improve spatial awareness, reasoning, memory, and perception just as well as academic courses designed to strengthen those same skills.

Another study published by the Journal of Adolescent Research in 2013, found that playing video games can enhance motivation and cognitive effort over long periods of time – similar to the benefits seen when children are involved in school or recreational sports, arts, and other non-digital hobbies.

In light of the WHO’s recent classification of Gaming Disorders – and much like anything that can have negative consequences – it seems that moderation is key to seeing the benefits while avoiding an addiction to video games.