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Sober Nation

Putting Recovery On The Map

06-03-19 | By

Video Game Addiction is Now Considered a Mental Health Disorder

Just this past weekend, the World Health Organization (WHO) finalized the eleventh edition of its International Statistical Classification of Diseases and Related Health Problems (ICD-11). The guide has now included “gaming disorder” and “hazardous gaming” as part of its list of behavioral disorders.

As the decision has been a hot topic of discussion for awhile, naturally, the gaming industry has given push back against the classification. However, through extensive research, there’s plenty of evidence that “hazardous gaming” should be considered a medical diagnosis.

By simply playing a lot of video games isn’t enough to count as a disorder. In order to be diagnosed with the addiction, a person must show 12 months of “severe” symptoms defined as, “a pattern of persistent or recurrent gaming behavior” in which a sufferer gives priority to gaming over and above other interests in spite of negative consequences such as impairments in their family relationships, social lives, work duties, or other areas.

The Research

In wake of the news, top gaming companies including the Entertainment Software Association (ESA), among several other organizations released a statement stating that the WHO’s “guidance needs to be based on regular, inclusive, and transparent reviews backed by independent experts,” additionally arguing that the decision was not “based on sufficiently robust evidence.”

“There are valid points from multiple sides of this debate, but I do agree with our industry position that clearly more research is needed here,” says Dave McCarthy, head of operations at Xbox. “I think that is painfully evident when you look at the set of research that is actually out there.”

According to the Entertainment Software Association, more than 150 million Americans play video games – an industry that produced nearly $44 billion in sales last year.

Video Game Treatment

Though video game and tech addiction isn’t officially recognized in the United States, there are few facilities for teens and adults that try to address the issue.

The idea of video games becoming a mental health hazard was first introduced last June by WHO as a way to help individuals and health workers deal with it effectively. And now more than ever, health care professionals are hoping that the new classification will guide those who fit the description to the right place.

On Twitter, Dr. John Jiao, an emergency medicine doctor, said the diagnosis was “sorely needed.”

“Otherwise people with real, legitimate video game addiction can often have trouble with insurance paying for their therapy, especially if they don’t fit any other diagnosis,” Jiao tweeted.

With no slow down in the foreseeable future for gamers, the industry calls for a rethink in the WHO’s decision to label excess gaming as a disorder.

The actual revision won’t go into effect until January 2022.

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