WHO classifies video game addiction as a disorder

The News

  • WHO has included gaming disorder in its list of mental health conditions in the draft of its 11th International Classification of Diseases (ICD).


About ICD

  • The International Classification of Diseases (ICD) contains around 55,000 unique codes for injuries, diseases and causes of death.
  • Being a foundation for identifying health trends and statistics worldwide, it provides a common language that allows health professionals to share health information across the globe.
  • The ICD is used by medical practitioners around the world to diagnose conditions and by researchers to categorize conditions.
  • The inclusion of a disorder in ICD is taken into account by countries when planning public health strategies and monitoring trends of disorders.
  • ICD-11 will be presented at the World Health Assembly in May 2019 for adoption by Member States, and will come into effect on January 1, 2022.


Gaming disorder: A definition

  • WHO defines gaming disorder as a pattern of gaming behavior (digital-gaming or video-gaming) characterized by impaired control over gaming.
  • The disorder increases priority given to gaming over other activities to the extent that gaming takes precedence over other interests and daily activities and continuation or escalation of gaming despite occurrence of negative consequences.
  • For gaming disorder to be diagnosed, the behavior pattern must be of sufficient severity to result in significant impairment in personal, family, social, educational, occupational or other important areas of functioning and would normally have been evident for at least 12 months.
  • This doesn’t mean that every child who spends hours a day playing video games is an addict.
  • According to the World Health Organization, the disorder is rare and only two to three percent of gamers have ‘gaming disorder’.


5Cs Symptoms

  • Craving: Continuous desire to indulge in gaming.
  • Control: User cannot control time spent on gaming.
  • Coping: Use of gaming as a way of coping with other related issues like depression.
  • Compulsion: Unable to take interest in other activities.
  • Consequences: Physical and psychological effects.




Adverse effects of addiction

  • Addicts develop physical health problems like disturbance in sleep pattern and irregular dietary habits.
  • According to SHUT (Service for Healthy use of Technology) clinic in NIMHANS, most cases exhibited psychosocial and behavioural changes.
  • They stop socializing with people or going to work.
  • It is also associated with insomnia, sleep apnea and nightmares.
  • In addition those with the disorder have other problems like depression, bipolar disorder or autism.
  • Among adults, it leads one to disregard crucial daily responsibilities such as work, academic, family, or social obligations.


Need for recognition

  • Internet addiction in general, since mid to late 90s has been labeled as mental health disorder in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM) of Mental Disorders, a diagnostic bible for mental health professionals published by the American Psychiatric Association.
  • The DSM has already classified gaming disorder as a mental health condition.
  • In the wake of Blue Whale and other such dangerous games, there is a need for early diagnosis and monitoring.
  • Besides nearly 7% of population studied for gaming and internet addiction exhibited symptoms of depression and anxiety, and somatisation, including behavioural changes and sleep disturbances.
  • Despite the known harmful effects of addiction to video games, research in this area is scarce.
  • Classifying Gaming Disorder as a separate condition will serve a public health purpose for countries to be better prepared to identify this issue.

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