Video Game Addiction – World Health Organisation Adopt ‘Gaming Disorder’ as Official Illness

After listing gaming disorder as a mental health condition in 2018, World Health Organisation members have now ratified video game addiction as an official disease. The news hit the gaming world just before the biggest industry event of the year – E3.

At the 72nd World Health Assembly in May 2019, the 11th revision of the International Statistical Classification of Diseases and Related Health Problems (ICD-11) was approved unanimously – including the new entry for gaming disorder.

In this blog, we’ll look at the signs of gaming disorder as defined in ICD-11. We’ll also cover how the video game industry have reacted to WHO’s announcement.

Gaming Disorder – the World Health Organisation Definition

In summary, ICD-11 defines the following characteristics of gaming disorder:

  • Persistent or recurrent digital gaming or video gaming – either continuous or episodic
  • Online and/or offline
  • Impaired control over gaming
  • Increasing priority is given to gaming over other life interests and daily activities
  • Gaming continues or becomes more frequent, despite negative consequences
  • Possible personal, family, social, educational and/or occupational consequences, as a result of video game addiction
  • Gaming disorder is usually evident over at least 12 months before diagnosis

If the symptoms are severe, clinicians can diagnose within 12 months.

Gaming Industry Reactions to WHO’s Announcement on Video Game Addiction

Tech and entertainment giant Sony has acknowledged gaming disorder. Ahead of WHO’s vote on ICD-11, Sony’s CEO Kenichiro Yoshida said: “We need to take it seriously and adopt countermeasures.” The Sony PlayStation is one of the world’s leading video game consoles, alongside platforms such as the Xbox and Nintendo Switch, making this statement more than significant. However, Yoshida has not elaborated on how or when Sony will tackle video game addiction.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, there’s been strong opposition to WHO’s decision from video game industry associations across the globe. In a joint statement released on 25th May 2019, representatives from groups including the Entertainment Software Association (US and Canada), ISFA (Europe) and UKIE (UK), said: “We encourage and support healthy gameplay by providing information and tools, such as parental controls, that empower billions of people around the world to manage their play to ensure it remains enjoyable and enriching. As with all good things in life, moderation is key and that finding the right balance is an essential part of a safe and sensible play.”

Gaming Disorder Treatment – When You’re Losing the Battle for Moderation and Balance

At Addiction Helper, we speak to people with all types of addiction, including process addictions like gaming disorder. In most cases, people who call us know they have lost control – moderation seems unattainable, and balance is a distant memory.

We are not concerned with interfering with the gaming habits of the majority of the gamers – people who can take or leave their hobby. Addiction Helper exists for those who no longer have the power of choice over gaming disorder and are suffering harm as a result of their addiction.

In the mid to late stages of video game addiction, most people are aware of the negative consequences that WHO include in their gaming disorder definition. For example, you may be physically ill or exhausted from the days and nights spent gaming. You may be suffering from mental illness too, such as anxiety, depressive episodes or self-harm. Relationships with relatives or friends may be full of conflict – especially with people who don’t game the way you do. You may be risking your career, education or finances because you can’t control your video game addiction. The rewards from gaming probably won’t feel as satisfying as they once did. You may even be desperate to stop, but you keep returning for more.

In the early stages of gaming disorder, you will probably be much more conflicted about what’s happening to you. There may be many gaming sessions that feel exhilarating or satisfying. However, gaming may be going on much longer than you intended each time you play. You might feel withdrawn or purposeless when you’re not gaming with other activities becoming pale in comparison or they are difficult to concentrate on. Perhaps you’re turning down social invitations from friends, to spend more time gaming alone.

The decision to get help with addiction is yours. Many contact Addiction Helper in the early stages of their illness – they can see where their addiction is heading and they want to stop before things get any worse. Others are only ready to change at the bitter end when very serious consequences have happened. Either way, video game addiction treatment is effective for those who seek it out.

For video game addicts, we offer confidential and respectful assessments, to identify if you’re suffering from gaming addiction. We advise you on specialist treatment options, to begin your recovery process in the most supportive way.

For relatives of problem gamers, we can advise you on interventions for video game addiction that will allow you to confront a loved one safely about their illness and encourage them to accept further help.

To read more about gaming disorder, please visit the Addiction Helper gaming addiction page.

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