WHO Classifies 'Gaming Addiction' As A Mental Health Disorder

by Menka Dimitrovska, Gaming Columnist

Published in Gaming and News on 20th June, 2018

There are a lot of people out there, including me, who like to play a game or two in their free time. Most of us never worry about it becoming a problem. But for some people, what begins as a harmless little activity or a fun hobby can turn into a debilitating addiction before they even realize it. One day they're enjoying a few matches with their friends; the next thing they know they're spending their whole weekend stuck in their room, never knowing whether it's dusk or dawn, or whether they've eaten or slept.


Acording to the Guardian, here's what the reality of gaming addiction looks like:

When I got home on a Friday night, I would sit at the computer and I wouldn't leave until Sunday night. I would use amphetamines to stay awake and just game continuously, and I would only leave the computer to go to the toilet. It just consumed my life.
Ian, a former gaming addict.

His gaming addiction got to a point where he could no longer concentrate on anything else, let alone care about anything other than the games he was playing. His addiction got so bad that it lead him to lose his job and even his family.

But it wasn't always like this for Ian and many other gaming addicts who share his story. He was once a working, family man, who took his responsibilities seriously, and only played a game or two occasionally, or in his free time.

In order to get a full sense of how an occasional gaming routine can develop into addiction, and what it means to be a gaming addict, we must first have a look at what qualifies as a gaming addiction.

What Does Gaming Disorder or Gaming Addiction Mean?

WHO just added "gaming disorder", or more commonly known as gaming addiction in the 11th edition of its International Classification of Diseases. The World Health Organization defines "gaming disorder" as a pattern of gaming behavior that makes a person lose control over gaming activities and give them priority above all else, which continues to escalate in a way that's detrimental to his or her life without any sign of improvement.

Gaming disorder has significant effects on all aspects of a person's life, including: family, social, occupational, educational and all other areas that make someone a functioning and healthy member of society.

The disorder can be diagnosed after a presence of these patterns has been evident for 12 months, and the person has started to experience problems on all four important aspects that were mentioned above.

Why Was Gaming Addiction Classified as a Mental Health Disorder?

Gaming disorders have just been added to the International Classification of Diseases (ICD-11) after a thorough look at the evidence by a panel of experts, who believe that classifying gaming disorder as a mental health disorder can finally help a lot of people, who suffer, get the appropriate help that they deserve.

This can lead to the development of more and more treatment programs that will be able to help people with similar health conditions all around the world, and will grab the attention of all health care professionals. This can help them better spot the signs of addiction in their patients and inform them of the risks that come with this disorder on time.

gaming addiction

The main thing that the WHO wants to achieve is get the public's attention to this ever-increasing problem and prepare people and health professionals accordingly. This way we can find suitable methods to prevent and treat the symptoms before they get worse, and take over a person's life completely.

As Dr. Vladimir Poznyak, a member of the Mental Health and Substance Abuse Department of the World Health Organization said:

health professionals need to recognize that gaming disorder may have serious health consequences.

He added that classifying the gaming disorder as a mental health problem can make health professionals be more "alerted to the existence of this condition" so that "people who suffer from these conditions can get appropriate help."

Should All Gamers Be Concerned?

Now, after reading this, you're probably wondering about the risks that you as a gamer may face as well. It's only natural that you become concerned about your gaming patterns and maybe even worry if such a thing can happen to you.


Before you worry yourself sick, here's what you need to have in mind:

  • Studies show that only a small amount of people can be affected by gaming disorder
  • You should however always be careful about how much time you spend playing video games
  • You should also be alert to any changes in your physical or psychological behavior and if you notice any change of patterns in you or someone else, you should acknowledge that and look for help

Can Gaming Addiction Be Deadly?

Although it's not very common for gaming addiction to be the cause of death, there have been a few documented cases around the world where over-exhaustion or lack of physical activity due to constant gaming have led to premature death.

Such cases have been documented in a few countries around the world, including China, Taiwan, South Korea, Vietnam, the United States, and the Philippines.

One case includes a man from South Korea, who spent 50 hours playing StarCraft in a local internet cafe. He was taken to a hospital after showing signs of cardiac arrest, where he died soon after. His friends reported that he had been struggling with gaming addiction for quite some time, which had led him to lose both his girlfriend and his job, 6 weeks before the accident.

In 2009, another gaming tragedy occurred in South Korea. This time, the victim was a three-month-old baby, who died from malnutrition. Ironically enough, her parents were both spending their time caring for a virtual child in an online game they were both playing.

How Can Gaming Addiction Be Treated?

Although research is still in the preliminary stages, a lot of countries including the U.S., Canada, the Netherlands, China and a few more, have already opened treatment centers that, same as with treating any other addiction, focus on psychotherapy, psychopharmacology, support groups, twelve-step programs, alternative therapies that include meditation and yoga and so on.

If you or someone you know is suffering from gaming addiction, don't hesitate to reach out and find the support you need to recover and get your old life back.

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