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‘Gaming Disorder’ is now an official World Health Organization disease

Mason Sylvia

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The World Health Organization (WHO) announced today they’ve officiated a revision to the International Statistical Classification of Diseases and Related Health Problems, a revision that now includes ‘gaming disorder,’ which has always been considered an addictive behavior disorder across many opinions. Going forward, the current version is referred to as ICD-11 and goes into effect January 1, 2022.

An interesting detail about the inclusion is that it’s listed directly under ‘gambling disorder’ and uses the disorder’s description nearly verbatim, simply replacing the world ‘gambling’ with ‘gaming.’ In the previous revision, ICD-10, gambling disorder was classified by the WHO as ‘pathological gambling’ and has been updated to be synonymous with its video gaming counterpart.

The International Classification of Diseases is a system used for classifying diseases and disorders for the sole purposes of health care management, epidemiological research, and clinical treatment. A subsection dedicated to mental, behavioral, and neurodevelopmental disorders is where the gaming disorder entry will be categorized. It’s defined as “a pattern of persistent or recurrent gaming behavior (‘digital gaming’ or ‘video-gaming’), which may be online (i.e., over the internet) or offline.

According to the WHO, the afflicted may show “impaired control over gaming,” “increasing priority given to gaming to the extent that gaming takes precedence over other life interests and daily activities,” and “continuation or escalation of gaming despite the occurrence of negative consequences.”

Representatives of the industry in eight nations called on the WHO to re-evaluate the decision to include gaming disorder in ICD-11, stating, “The WHO is an esteemed organization and its guidance needs to be based on regular, inclusive, and transparent reviews backed by independent experts. ‘Gaming disorder’ is not based on sufficiently robust evidence to justify its inclusion in one of the WHO’s most important norm-setting tools.”

Last year, when the WHO finalized ICD-11, the Entertainment Software Association pushed back against the inclusion of ‘gaming disorder’ saying that doing so “recklessly trivializes real mental health issues like depression and social anxiety disorder.”

It’s worth mentioning that the ICD is not law or holy writ, nor does it have the power of either. However, it is largely influential in how professionals and policy makers study and propose treatment or intervention in public health matters. With that being said, the WHO’s decision to include ‘gaming disorder’ in the ICD-11 may cement particular individuals’ beliefs and fears of the detriment of video games.

Video game enthusiast, James Bond aficionado, Tomb Raider expert, and lover of Beefeater gin. I'm a creature of habit and I'm either found buried in a book or working through my video game backlog when I'm not working my day job.

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