The World Health Organization, also known as WHO, will start recognizing “gaming disorder” as an official mental health condition next year.
The International Compendium of Diseases (ICD), which is how WHO categorize their diagnostics for various diseases, is aiming to place video game addiction in the same category as disorders related to gambling and drugs in its next version.
The new draft was published earlier this week, and it marks the first time the ICD has featured an entry dedicated to gaming. “Gaming disorder is characterized by a pattern of persistent or recurrent gaming behavior (‘digital gaming’ or ‘video-gaming’), which may be online (i.e., over the internet) or offline, manifested by: 1) impaired control over gaming (e.g., onset, frequency, intensity, duration, termination, context); 2) increasing priority given to gaming to the extent that gaming takes precedence over other life interests and daily activities; and 3) continuation or escalation of gaming despite the occurrence of negative consequences,” WHO explained in their latest draft.
The diagnosis for “gaming disorder” has already seen criticism, with one writer at HuffPost explaining, “‘gaming disorder’ is indicative of a larger trend to increasingly pathologize normative behaviors, whether for moral reasons or financial or political.”
Earlier this year, a group of 28 scholars wrote a scathing open letter criticizing WHO’s proposal, citing a lack of scientific support. Meanwhile, Dr. Anthony M. Bean, a clinical psychologist from Texas, explained to Polygon, “We don’t know what video game addiction is. … The psychology and medical fields took the concept of addiction—whether it’s substance abuse or anything like that—and just switched it out with video games. The thinking was, ‘Oh, it’s a form of addiction. It’s like any other addiction.’ But it’s not the same. You could do the whole process over again with football.”
As a form of entertainment that remains a form of escapism for many and even a job for some, it seems reductive and maybe even dangerous to stigmatize games as there are often other factors at play. “Maybe that person’s anxious,” Bean said to Polygon. “Maybe the person’s actually depressed and using video games as a coping mechanism, or a mechanism with which to deal with some personal stress in the world.”