The World Health Organization (WHO) has officially recognized gaming addiction as a Mental Health Disorder.
The WHO’s International Classification of Diseases (ICD), describes addiction to digital and video gaming as “a pattern of persistent or recurrent gaming behavior” that becomes so extensive it “takes precedence over other life interests”.
The WHO’s expert on mental health and substance abuse, Shekhar Saxena, said some of the worst cases seen in global research were of gamers playing for up to 20 hours a day, forgoing sleep, meals, work or school and other daily activities.
He stressed that only a small minority of people who play digital and video games would develop a problem, but said recognition of early warning signs may help prevent it.
“This is an occasional or transitory behavior,” he said, adding that only if such behavior persists for around a year could a potential diagnosis of a disorder be made.
Responding to the decision to including gaming addiction, the Video Games Coalition, an industry lobby group said their products were “enjoyed safely and sensibly by more than 2 billion people worldwide” across all kinds of genres, devices, and platforms.
It added that the “educational, therapeutic, and recreational value” of games was well-founded and widely recognized and urged the WHO to reconsider.
Here is the official definition of gaming disorder from the WHO:
“A pattern of persistent or recurrent gaming behavior (‘digital gaming’ or ‘video-gaming’), which may be online (i.e., over the internet) or offline, manifested by:
Impaired control over gaming (e.g., onset, frequency, intensity, duration, termination, context);
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.
The behavior pattern is of sufficient severity to result in significant impairment in personal, family, social, educational, occupational or other important areas of functioning.”