WHO declares 'gaming disorder' a mental health issue, warns of 'significant impairment in personal, family, social' areas of functioning
The WHO has classified 'gaming disorder' as a mental health issue in the 11th revision of the International Classification of Diseases (ICD) and has come out with symptoms and behaviour patterns which could be observed for diagnosis.
The ICD is used by the WHO as the basis for identification of health trends and statistics globally and is used by medical practitioners and researchers to diagnose and classify disorders worldwide.
It has defined gaming disorder as "a pattern of gaming behaviour (“digital-gaming” or “video-gaming”) characterized by impaired control over gaming, increasing 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 the occurrence of negative consequences."
The WHO also provided on its website that "for gaming disorder to be diagnosed, the behaviour 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 means that the addictive behavior associated with gaming, which in turn, leads to impairment in social relationships or becomes an obstacle to the normal functioning of a person could be diagnosed as a disorder if the behavior's impact lasts for 12 months or more. The inclusion of gaming disorder was done after experts and studies from different fields and geographical regions came to a consensus about the disrupting nature of gaming addiction.
WHO further added that not everyone who likes gaming has a disorder but that they should be aware of the time they spent gaming. If the time spent on gaming leads to the exclusion of normal daily activities, impairment in social relationships, negative impact on the physical or psychological conditions of the person, then they may need to consult medical experts for diagnosis and help.
The inclusion of gaming disorder in this list would mean that they could now be a subject of planning when it comes to health policies. This means that there could now be dedicated studies for understanding and curing the disorder. Health care professionals could now pay extra attention to this phenomenon and the behavior pattern could be observed early for diagnosis.
This inclusion, further, brings to light the growing concerns over games like Fortnite which have been reported by many as causing a breakdown of social relationships. The addictive nature of gaming was already under focus but with this inclusion, a new approach to studies could be initiated.