27 February 2019

Gaming Disorder: A Look at Video Games, Addiction, and Mental Health

Intro Copy

The World Health Organization (WHO), a United Nations agency devoted to world health, announced a controversial addition to its list of diagnosable mental-health disorders in the 11th revision of the International Classification of Diseases (ICD-11): gaming disorder. The decision was based upon decades of research and studies and on expert opinions from around the world. The WHO site defines gaming disorder “as a pattern of gaming behavior (‘digital-gaming’ or ‘video-gaming’) characterized by impaired control over gaming, increasing priority given to gaming over other activities to the extent that gaming takes precedence over other interests and daily activities, and continuation or escalation of gaming despite the occurrence of negative consequences.” But video games are typically safe, according to the World Health Organization, and a diagnosis of true gaming disorder is rare. In a question-and-answer WHO video, WHO’s Director of the Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Shekhar Saxena states: “Everybody who indulges in gaming from time to time doesn't have this disorder. In fact, it's only a minority of people who game who will satisfy the strict criteria for gaming disorder in ICD-11" (minute 2:50). Research, in fact, has shown that as little as one to 10 percent of gamers will suffer from gaming disorder, which is associated with symptoms such as depression, anxiety, aggression, and social phobias. The official recognition of gaming disorder as a diagnosable condition allows these people more access to treatment and instigates further research into therapies to manage the disorder. But is it a disorder? Not everyone agrees with the WHO’s decision. The Entertainment Software Association (ESA), the trade association of the video-game industry in the United States, has recently asked the WHO to reconsider its classification of gaming disorder as a mental-health disorder. And the U.S. psychiatric profession does not officially recognize gaming disorder as a classifiable condition—but the American Psychiatric Association does identify certain symptoms as related to gaming disorder and has proposed adding gaming disorder to its Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5). This international issue has made its way in to newspaper editorials--some in agreement with the WHO decision and some in disagreement-- and news-panel discussions. I even hear my 13-year-old daughter and her friends discussing the issue of video-game addiction and its effects on kids they know. Check out SIRS Knowledge Source for more on this topic. In mid-February, SKS will be entering the discussion with a new Leading Issues topic, Video Game Addiction. It will explore questions and viewpoints on video games; video games and youth; video game design; video game addiction; video game safetyvideo games' impact on mental health, social life, and families; and more.