Computer gaming addiction has been listed as a mental health disorder for the very first time by the World Health Organization (WHO).
The WHO has listed ‘gaming disorder’ in its International Classification of Diseases for the very first time.
To suffer from the disease you must ‘experience significant impairment in personal, family, social, educational, occupational or other important areas of function’ and you must have lived with this for at least one year’.
It’s hoped the new official classification will encourage gamers to seek help for their addiction and others take their disorder more seriously.
Video games work hard to hook players. Designers use predictive algorithms and principles of behavioral economics to keep fans engaged. When new games are reviewed, the most flattering accolade might be “I can’t put it down.”
The WHO now is saying players can actually become addicted.
Concerns about the influence of video games are dovetailing with increasing scrutiny over the harmful aspects of technology, as consumers look for ways to scale back consumption of social media and online entertainment.
The WHO designation may help legitimize worries about video game fans who neglect other parts of their lives. It could also make gamers more willing to seek treatment, encourage more therapists to provide it and increase the chances that insurance companies would cover it, The New York Times has reported.
“It’s going to untie our hands in terms of treatment, in that we’ll be able to treat patients and get reimbursed,” said Dr. Petros Levounis, the chairman of the psychiatry department at Rutgers New Jersey Medical School. “We won’t have to go dancing around the issue, calling it depression or anxiety or some other consequence of the issue but not the issue itself.”
Around the world, 2.6 billion people play video games, including two-thirds of American households, according to the Entertainment Software Association. Annual revenue for the industry is expected to grow 31 percent to $180.1 billion globally within three years. Fortnite — the latest blockbuster, in which players battle to be the last one standing in an apocalyptic storm — recently earned a reported $300 million in a month.
The industry has pushed back against the WHO classification, which is expected to be formally adopted next year, calling it “deeply flawed” while pointing to the “educational, therapeutic and recreational value of games.”
But gaming has long had an addictive quality. The game EverQuest, introduced nearly 20 years ago, was nicknamed EverCrack for the long binges it inspired.
Now, mental health professionals say they increasingly see players who have lost control.
“I have patients who come in suffering from an addiction to Candy Crush Saga, and they’re substantially similar to people who come in with a cocaine disorder,” Dr. Levounis said. “Their lives are ruined, their interpersonal relationships suffer, their physical condition suffers.”