GM Thought of the Week – WHO labels video game addiction as ‘a disease’

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GM Thought of the Week – WHO labels video game addiction as ‘a disease’

Video game addiction has now been recognised as a mental health addiction by the World Health Organisation. Subsequently, treatment will now be made available via the NHS. ‘Gaming disorder’ is the official adopted term that identifies the addictive disease.


The specific diagnosis of such addiction states that the, ‘behaviour must be, of sufficient severity to result in significant impairment in personal, family, social, educational, occupational or other important areas of functioning.’ Symptoms will also need to be evidenced of at least a year.


The recent prominence of the game Fortnite has brought the issue of excessive gaming to the forefront of popular culture. However, there has been mounting cases of younger players experiencing psychological distress and other issues attributed to gaming, so by no means is this a new phenomenon.


However, is this a justified move made by the WHO? Certainly, recent cases prove there are problems with excessive gaming. Though, we must be careful not to tarnish gamers who play immoderately as addicts, as by doing so we risk pathologising normal behaviours.


A 2017 American Journal of Psychiatry study concluded, that at most 1% of internet based gamers might demonstrate characteristics of an addiction. In addition to this, the study revealed that there was no evidence that such addiction manifested itself in physical, social and mental health.


Inevitably, the gaming industry have expressed their concerns to the WHO. In a joint statement, organisations representing the industry globally have stated, ‘Video games across all kinds of genres, devices and platforms are enjoyed safely and sensibly by more than 2 billion people worldwide, with the educational, therapeutic, and recreational value of games being well-founded and widely recognised.’


The final version of the International Classification of Diseases (ICD-11) list is scheduled for next year and so there is still time for this decision to be changed. It is right that concerns have now been recognised, but evidence for ‘gaming disorder’ to be identified as a disease remains questionable and dubious.


In my opinion the key is moderation – too much of anything can be inimical chancy, consequently, the wider public need to be educated on the negative impacts excessive gaming can have. We should avoid diagnosing and implementing legislation – (as is the case in South Korea where laws have been implemented to restrict access to children). Gaming is an enjoyable pastime for millions.


Thomas Jameson, Associate Director of Finance 


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