Over the weekend, the world’s top health organisation, the World Health Organisation (WHO), officially recognised gaming disorder as a real thing, likening it to gambling addictions.
The change comes as a result of member states of the World Health Assembly agreeing to adopt the eleventh revision of the ICD, also known as the International Statistical Classification of Diseases and Related Health Problems (try saying that five times fast).
The ICD-11, which will come into affect on New Year’s Day, 2022, categorises “gaming disorder” as a “disorder due to addictive behaviours”, placing it in the same category as gambling addictions. It includes two sub-categories: one for predominantly online gaming, and one for predominantly offline gaming.
It describes the disorder as being “characterized by a pattern of persistent or recurrent gaming behaviour (‘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 behaviour pattern is of sufficient severity to result in significant impairment in personal, family, social, educational, occupational or other important areas of functioning.”
So basically, if gaming has taken over your life, and you find yourself literally unable to control your impulse to pick up a controller, you might have a problem. I’m not a medical professional though, so please do not use this article to self-diagnose, thanks!
Don’t start panicking just yet, though: a Real Life Doctor took to Twitter to explain what gaming disorder is and isn’t.
In fact, a diagnosis cannot be made without 12 continuous months of behaviour that impairs a person’s functioning.
He goes on to provide some helpful examples:
You basically have a doctor’s permission to take a week off work to binge WoW now, guys. Print out that tweet and show it to your boss, then let me know how that goes. I’ll wait.
Mashable pointed out that the details and examples provided in Jiao’s thread are useful, but not actually included in the ICD, which means there’s the potential for that ambiguity to create confusion and perhaps even inaccurate diagnoses.
However, it’s still early days, so there’s time for medical professionals and experts on addictive behaviours to work together to shore up diagnostic criteria for gaming addictions.
This move shouldn’t be taken as an attack on gamers, unless identifying gambling addictions is an attack on gamblers, or identifying sex addictions is an attack on anyone who has sex. Any activity that takes over your life to the point where everything else is neglected is a problem; nobody is targeting gaming because of some wider conspiracy against gamers. So let’s nip those screeds against ‘big pharma’ in the bud, shall we?