‘Video Game Addiction Is A Mental Health Disorder’ – WHO Says

Video gaming can be addictive in the same way as cocaine or gambling , the World Health Organization said Monday in a much anticipated update of the I

Video gaming can be addictive in the same way as cocaine or gambling , the World Health Organization said Monday in a much anticipated update of the International Classification of Diseases ( ICD- 11 ) .

“After consulting with experts across the world , and reviewing evidence in an exhaustive manner , we decided that this condition should be added ,” Shekhar Saxena , director of the WHO ’s department of mental health and substance abuse , told AFP .

Online and offline “gaming disorder” is grouped with “disorders due to substance use or addictive behaviours ” in the ICD ’s 11 th edition, the first major revision in nearly three decades.

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

Key symptoms include “impaired control ” — notably the inability to stop playing — and focusing on the game to the exclusion of everything else .

“The person does so much gaming that other interests and activities are ignored , including sleeping and eating ,” Saxena said by phone .

In extreme cases , gamers unable to pry themselves away from a screen drop out of school , lose jobs , and become cut off from family and non -gaming friends . The overwhelming majority of video game adepts are young , many in their teens .

Symptomatic behaviour must continue for at least a year before it is considered dangerously unhealthy , according to the new classification .

Some 2 .5 billion people — one-in -three worldwide — play some form of free – to-play screen game , especially on cell phones , but the disorder only affects a “small minority ”, said Saxena .

“We are not saying that all gaming is pathological .”

– Push – back from industry –

The games industry raked in $ 108 billion dollars worldwide in 2017, more than double movie box – office receipts, according to Superdata , which tracks the games and interactive media sector .

Nearly 40 percent of those sales are in east Asia , especially China and South Korea . Other important markets include the United States , Britain , France , Germany and Brazil .

In South Korea and the United States , clinics have sprung up to treat video game addiction, along with community and online support groups .

So – called “shooter games ” such as “Fortnite ” — described on the support website Game Quitters as the “hottest game in the world ” — are either played online or on offline consoles.

The inclusion of “gaming disorder” in WHO ’s revised catalogue of diseases met with resistence , both from industry and some experts .

“The WHO process lacks transparency, is deeply flawed , and lacks scientific support ,” Michael Gallagher, president and CEO of the Entertainment Software Association , said in a statement in March.

In a study to be published in the Journal of Behavioral Addictions, a group of 36 researchers said there was insufficent evidence to warrant the new category .

“Given the gravity of diagnostic classification and its wider social impact , we urge our colleagues at the WHO to err on the side of caution for now and postpone the formalisation ,” they wrote in a study reviewing academic literature .

The ICD identifies about 55 ,000 separate injuries , diseases, conditions and causes of death, and is widely used as a benchmark for diagnoses and health insurance .

“It enables us to understand so much about what makes people get sick and die , and to take action to prevent suffering and save lives ,” WHO Director – General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said in a statement .

The new ICD also includes for the first time a chapter on traditional medicines, used by millions of people around the world .

The ICD- 11 database can be consulted here : https : / / icd .who . int/ browse 11 / l -m / en

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