Chances are good that you know someone who enjoys video games. In fact, many people enjoy video gaming. However, Ira Riklis describes further how it becomes a problem when you spend hours playing video games. Some people have been known to play for excessively long periods with no breaks and no sleep with dire health consequences. A Canadian study found that of 7,000 video gamers, almost 12 percent were found to be addicted to video games.
A New Disorder
The problem has become so widespread that the World Health Organization has moved to recognize gaming disorder as a mental health condition. This means that addictive gaming behavior is ranked right up there with a gambling disorder. The gaming disorder is listed under “disorders due to substance abuse or addictive behaviors” that has negative effects on the mind and behavior. It will be recognized as a health condition in the WHO’s upcoming 11th update of International Classification of Diseases (ICD-11). This inclusion means that a diagnosis can be used by doctors and other healthcare providers as well as insurance companies.
Diagnosing Gaming Disorder
The World Health Organization recognizes those afflicted with a video addiction as displaying a pattern of persistent or repetitive behavior in regards to video gaming, which can consist of online and offline gaming, that is manifested by:
- impaired control over gaming meaning you have a difficult time controlling the amount of time spent gaming
- gaming takes precedence over other important aspects of your life to the point that you begin neglecting activities outside of gaming
- continuation or escalation of gaming activities despite negative consequences meaning your physical and mental health will suffer as will your relationships with friends and family)
To be classified as someone with a gaming disorder, the behaviors should have gone on for 12 months or longer. However, in extreme cases, a diagnosis may be made sooner.
There are many individuals and organizations that agree with the WHO’s decision to include gaming disorder in the ICD-11. However, there are just as many who disagree. The Entertainment Software Association disagrees with WHO on its decision to classify a gaming disorder as a mental health condition. They feel that this move by WHO lacks common sense and trivializes mental health issues that are real.
Douglas A. Gentile, a psychology professor at Iowa State University, feels that inclusion of gaming disorder in the ICD-11 will generate discussion about how to define the disorder as well as the best treatments for such a disorder.
Chris Ferguson, a psychology professor at Stetson University, feels that the WHO should have taken more and time and reached out to all the invested stakeholders – skeptical scholars, video gamers themselves and companies that make and distribute video games – before formulating their description of a gaming disorder. And he questions whether it is really a disorder or if it is just a symptom of another mental health disorder.
Video Gaming In Moderation
Not all gaming leads to addiction. When done in moderation, there are some benefits associated with playing video games. Some of these are:
- better hand-eye coordination
- enhanced problem solving ability
- stress relief
- connecting with other people
- living out fantasies
The key word here is moderation. If you spend a couple hours per week gaming, you can probably feel confident that you don’t have a problem. But, when video gaming starts to take up all your extra time to the point you are seeing negative consequences, it may be time to reconsider the amount of time you are putting into gaming. Excessive video gaming will have a negative impact on your health and your relationships so if you think you have a problem, the WHO is making it easier to get help.