Gaming addiction officially recognised as mental health condition

Long Lunch 20/06/2018
Photo: Getty.

In 2017, the World Health Organisation (WHO) declared it would recognise video game addiction as a mental health disorder.

Now it’s all official.

The WHO included the addiction as a mental health condition in its most recent disease classification manual – a move that has been applauded by industry experts across the globe.

Its International Classification of Diseases (ICD) now covers 55,000 injuries, diseases and causes of death, forming a basis for the WHO and other experts to see and respond to trends in health.

While experts would require a 12-month period to assess a patient to clinically describe their condition, the WHO loosely defined video game addiction as the prioritisation of gaming that it “takes precedence” over other life interests and impaired control over gaming.

Psychotherapist and addiction specialistJames Driver told RadioLIVE that studies suggest up to 5 percent of young people are addicted to gaming, with up to 8 percent of youths gaming in ways that are creating issues.

He explained that the WHO likely took its time to pronounce gaming as a mental health disorder to avoid giving in to “moral panic” and to avoid unnecessarily classifying a disorder without proper research.

Mr Driver said one of the biggest issues is when gamers use the activity “to meet psychological needs they’re not otherwise meeting”, like for coping with stress or to avoid difficulties in their lives.

“When it becomes their main way of managing their mood, that can escalate into a problem,” he said. 

The American Psychiatric Association suggests some of the following as possible criteria for Internet Gaming Disorder:

  • preoccupation with internet games;
  • withdrawal symptoms when internet gaming is taken away;
  • loss of interest in previous hobbies and entertainment as a result of, and with the exception of, internet games;
  • continued excessive use of internet games despite knowledge of psychosocial problems;

See the full listen of symptoms at Net Addiction NZ here

Listen to the full interview with James Driver above.

The Long Lunch with Trudi Nelson in for Wendyl Nissen, 12pm - 3pm on RadioLIVE and streaming live to the rova app on Android and iPhone.