The World Health Organization (WHO) has begun 2018 by adding “gaming disorder”, or gaming addiction, to its International Classification of Diseases (ICD). This comes after years of rumblings by health professionals noting addictive behaviours exhibited in some video gamers. The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) is the “bible” of psychiatric disorders. In 2013, the most recent edition of the DSM listed internet gaming disorder as a “condition for further study”. This shows how much traction this concept has gained over the last five years to now officially list it as a disorder.
Gaming is a process addiction, like gambling and sex addiction. This means a person has an addiction to doing something rather than consuming something. A substance addiction is when consuming things like drugs and alcohol becomes a compulsion.
The WHO report outlines many specifics that must be considered before a person can be diagnosed with gaming disorder. Their desire to play video games must overtake the need to do other important activities in their daily life. This kind of behaviour should also be observed for at least a year before a diagnosis is given. Emotional signs of video game addiction can look like isolation from friends and family so the person can spend more time gaming, and irritability when unable to play. These kinds of emotional signs are common across addiction types. Gaming disorder also has physical symptoms like carpal tunnel syndrome from overuse of controllers or keyboard and mouse, poor hygiene as they spend more time in the game, and headaches from the artificial screen light.
It is hoped by gaming addiction being classified as a disorder, those who suffer can have better access to treatment options. Those with a gaming disorder must not be shamed or laughed off just because it is a new diagnosis. As a society, we have recognized some people’s predisposition for excessive gambling for centuries. Therefore, this process addiction is just a sign of our modern era and the new vices available to people. Even prior to the WHO’s announcement there were countries who had independently declared gaming addiction as a disorder. There are many private treatment facilities that are already operational and aim to treat this disorder. In countries that had not yet added this classification, the WHO declaration will make it easier for public funding to become available and provide avenues for proper medical treatment plans.