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Video gaming addiction is now a mental disorder, says WHO

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By Pascale Davies
Video gaming addiction is now a mental disorder, says WHO
Copyright  REUTERS/Mike Blake

Video game addiction has become the latest mental health disorder to be named by the World Health Organization.

On Monday "gaming disorder" appeared in a new draft of the WHO"s International Classification of Diseases.

The past-time can become problematic if gamers meet three characteristics: if a person loses control over their gaming habits, if they prioritise gaming over other activities, and if they continue playing despite negative consequences on lifestyle.

Dr Shekhar Saxena, director for the department for mental health from the WHO, told Euronews in a conference call, that video gaming disorder "can be present at any age" but particularly in adolescents and the young.

Saxena added that some of the worst cases recorded included young people spending "20 hours a day" on gaming and that it takes precedence over life's other necessities such as "sleep, exercise, and food."

However, she warns that video gaming addiction affects just a small percentage of the world's population — but adds that "it must be recognised" early, as it can "last a year before diagnosis."


While treatment for gaming disorder is in its early stages, Saxena says the "message for parents, colleagues, and friends" is to avoid the stigma surrounding the issue and says addicts should be able to seek professional help.

But she adds, while "recognition is a very good first step," prevention is also key.

About the study

The report, The International Classification of Diseases (ICD- 11), has been updated over the past 10 years. It now covers 33,000 injuries, diseases, and causes of death. It also forms the basis for WHO and experts to spot and respond to health trends.

The ICD is also used by health insurers whose reimbursements depend on ICD classifications.