‘Gaming Disorder’ added to WHO’s list of mental health conditions

World Today

FILE PHOTO: In this photo taken on November 5, 2017 a gamer plays video games with a Xbox console during the 2017 Paris Games Week exhibition at the Porte de Versailles exhibition centre in Paris. Video gaming can be addictive in the same way as cocaine or gambling, the World Health Organization said on June 18, 2018 in a much anticipation of the International Classification of Diseases (ICD-11). (Photo by Thomas SAMSON)

It’s believed that more than two billion people worldwide play video games. For most, it’s a harmless past-time, but for others, it’s an obsession.

The World Health Organization now recognizes “gaming disorder” as an official mental health condition.

So how does a player know when he or she has crossed the line? CGTN’s Dan Williams helps us sort it out.

It’s early evening in the northwest suburbs of Chicago, and dozens of people are hanging out at a gaming lounge. It is a social, interactive gathering, with players linking up to enjoy the latest games.

“PC gaming has taken it to the next level where people can come together, a lot of people are meeting through gaming and it has become like a social thing as well,” Abe Shihadeh of Mana Digital Drive said.

However, as gaming increases in popularity, the concern over excessive gaming grows. In June, the World Health Organization classified ‘gaming disorder” as a new mental health condition, including it in its latest edition of International Classification of Diseases.

“I started my first study into video game addiction in 1999. And I thought that can’t be right. They just mean my kid just plays a lot. And it turns out I was wrong,” Douglas Gentile, Associate Professor of Psychology for Iowa State University said. “In study after study, we find there are a small subset of people who actually are gaming in a way which is very dysfunctional.”

Dr. Kirk Moberg is the executive medical director at the Illinois Institute for Addiction and Recovery. He has seen first-hand the consequences of excessive gaming.

“I generally see people when they have experienced severe consequences from an addiction like this,” Dr. Moberg said. “I’ll give you an example of one of the most extreme that I saw was a young man in his early 20s, his parents were very concerned because he was playing video games 18 hours a day, to the exclusion of food and water.”

The move by the WHO has been criticized. Some researchers believe excessive gaming is merely a symptom of an underlying mental health issue, such as depression and not a stand-alone disorder.

There are also concerns that the label ‘gaming disorder’ could fuel a moral panic over new technology that is already being blamed for playing a role in mass shootings.

There will no doubt be a number of households across the globe concerned with so-called ‘gaming disorder.’ Experts are quick to point out it only impacts a very small minority. However, it’s hoped that this recognition of the issue will go some way to providing help for those that need it.

“It took 40 years before people recognized research and said alcoholism is a disease,” Gentile said. “I hope it doesn’t take that long for gaming disorder because until we start accepting it as a real problem, people won’t get the help they need.”

Wendy Dickinson breaks down ‘Gaming Disorder’

CGTN’s Wang Guan spoke with Wendy Dickinson, a psychologist and behavioral relationship expert, about the response to gaming disorder being listed as a mental health condition.