For the first time, the World Health Organisation (WHO) is classifying gaming disorder as an addictive behaviour.
Gaming is an enjoyable hobby for many. As a form of escapism, it can relieve stress and transport people into a world where they’re not limited by disabilities. It can also be quite the social affair if you’re gaming with online friends.
However, the world of gaming can also be highly addictive. So much so, that the WHO has added ‘excessive gaming’ to the most recent edition of its International Statistical Classification of Diseases and Related Health Problems (ICD-11), a diagnostic report used for the classification of disease and disorders.
Within ICD-11, the health organisation states that gaming disorders are characterised by “a pattern of persistent or recurrent gaming behaviour which may be online or offline.” This may be manifested by the following.
According to the report, these behaviours are normally evident over a period of 12 months in order for a diagnosis to be assigned. That said, the behavioural patterns can be present all the time or come in waves. So if the symptoms are severe over a shorter period of time then a person may also be considered an addict.
In ICD-11, hazardous gaming has also been linked to the gaming disorder section as a more severe form of the addiction.
“Hazardous gaming refers to a pattern of gaming, either online or offline that appreciably increases the risk of harmful physical or mental health consequences to the individual or to others around this individual.
“The increased risk may be from the frequency of gaming, from the amount of time spent on these activities, from the neglect of other activities and priorities, from risky behaviours associated with gaming or its context, from the adverse consequences of gaming, or from the combination of these. The pattern of gaming often persists in spite of awareness of increased risk of harm to the individual or to others.”
So, what difference is classifying gaming addiction as a disorder going to make?
Well, by adding a classification to excessive and hazardous gaming behaviours, it potentially opens up a new field of research. As with any disorder, finding the root causes and how to treat those affected is hugely important. It also gives recognition and raises awareness to potential consequences of gaming. In other words, it puts addictive gaming on the map of mental health conditions that need to be taken seriously.
There is a worry that, as it is a newly recognised disorder, simply enthusiastic gaming or getting hyped over a new release could be interpreted by parents or guardians as an addiction. But before you go locking up all the controllers in your house, the classification isn’t about telling everyone to go cold turkey on gaming.
The main outcome of the announcement is that it highlights the importance of balance. Ultimately, everyone has their favourite hobbies. And if gaming happens to be one of yours then it’s not a cause for concern. It’s just important to recognise when a passion turns into a problem.