The WHO released the latest version of its International Classification of Diseases, ICD-11, today, and among the changes from the previous iteration is that "gaming disorder" has been added to the section on addictive disorders. In the United Kingdom, the country's National Health Service has now started offering free treatment for those experiencing the disorder, though exactly what treatment would be most effective is still under discussion.
According to the organization, the disorder is characterized by an impaired ability to control one's gaming habits, to the extent that it begins to negatively impact their daily activities and supersedes their other interests. This goes beyond most of the addiction issues and refers to a pattern of gaming behaviour that "increases the risk of harmful physical or mental health consequences for the individual or others around this individual".
"It enables us to understand so much about what makes people get sick and die, and to take action to prevent suffering and save lives", WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said in a statement. That includes spending more time playing video games and less time with friends and family or at work and school.
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The inclusion of "gaming disorder" in WHO's revised catalogue of diseases met with resistence, both from industry and some experts. The DSM-5 calls out "Internet Gaming Disorder" but says it's a condition that warrants more clinical research and experience before it can be classified in the book as a formal disorder.
Others welcomed the move, saying it was critical to identify video game addicts quickly because they are usually teenagers or young adults who do not seek help themselves. Although traditional medicine is used by millions of people worldwide, it never before has been classified by World Health Organization in this system. As you can see here, gaming addiction is still there in the ICD-11.
Gaming disorder rubs shoulders with conditions such as gambling disorder, substance abuse, and addictive hoarding in the ICD.
The ICD-11 is still under review, so its content may shift. The new ICD-11 also reflects progress in medicine and advances in scientific understanding. While mental health practitioners are one key audience, the document is also instrumental among health insurers, who use its classifications to decide on reimbursement and more.