The impacts of the recognition of a newly classified disorder on the mental health field and public.

Do you or someone you know play video games persistently and to the point where it takes precedence over other interests and activities? If so, you or your loved one may now classify as having a Gaming Disorder under the World Health Organization’s (WHO) updated International Classification of Diseases (ICD)-11, to be released in May of this year. The potential adverse effects of addictive gaming behaviors has also gained attention by the American Psychiatric Association and the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, fifth edition (DSM-5) has listed “Internet Gaming Disorder” as a condition for further study and research.

The decision by the WHO to include the classification of “persistent or recurring gaming behavior… result[ing] in significant impairment in personal, family, social, educational, occupational or other important areas of functioning… present for over 12 months,” has sparked widespread debate. The main question among scholars and mental health professions is whether the act of excessive gaming itself is a mental health disorder or merely a symptom of an underlying issue or cause. According to the ICD-11, Gaming Disorders fit into the category of diagnosable addictive behaviors, similar to Gambling Disorders. However, opponents of labeling excessive gaming argue the lack of professional consensus on diagnostic criteria may result in stigmatization and false referrals for treatment for individuals who harmlessly enjoy gaming.

Even in light of the scholarly debate, many countries are reacting to over-gaming. As reported by BBC, South Korea has a law banning online play for children under the age of 16 between midnight and 6:00am. Japan has alerts set to notify players once they’ve reached a certain daily limit, and in China, “internet giant Tencent has limited the hours that children can play its most popular games.”

So what does the recognition of a Gaming Disorder mean for the public?

First and foremost, stay informed. Many researchers are concerned that this new diagnosis may cause panic among parents who might blur the line between “hobby” and “addiction.” Be mindful of your child’s, partner’s, or your own personal gaming habits as well as general functioning. If you notice a prolonged negative decline in personal, professional, and/or academic pursuits, consult a licensed mental health professional.

For those who do meet the ICD-11’s criteria for a Gaming Disorder, recovery is now possible. Without being able to identify what is amiss, the chances of healing are less likely. Through gaining academic support and validation, interventions and even rehabilitation centers are now available for people who struggle with persistent gaming behavior. Additionally, thanks to the growing attention to and debate surrounding the potential negative risks of recurrent gaming, scholars and researchers are focusing efforts on studying and identifying causes and effective treatment for individuals whose mental health is adversely impacted by gaming.


If your interest is piqued, below are other resources on the topic for you to explore:

Aarseth, E., et al. (2017). Scholars’ open debate paper on the World Health Organization ICD-11 Gaming Disorder proposal. Journal of Behavioral Addictions, (3),267. doi: 10.1556/2006.5.2016.088

Anderson, E., Steen, E., & Stavropoulos, V. (2016). Internet use and problematic internet use: A systematic review of longitudinal research trends in adolescence and emergent adulthood, (22), 4.

Billiuez, J., King, D. L., Higuchi, S., Achab, S., Bowden-Jones, H., Hao, W., & Poznyak, V. (2017). Functional impairment matters in the screening and diagnosis of gaming disorder: Commentary on: Scholars’ open debate paper on the World Health Organization ICD-11 Gaming Disorder Proposal (Aarseth et al.). Journal of Behavioral Addictions, (3), 285. doi: 10.1556/2006.6.2017.036

Brink, W. D. (2017). ICD-11 Gaming Disorder: Needed and just in time or dangerous and much too early? Commentary on: Scholars’ open debate paper on the World Health Organization ICD-11 Gaming Disorder Proposal (Aarseth et al.). Journal of Behavioral Addictions, (3), 290. doi: 10.1556/2006.6.2017.040

Petry, N. et al. (2014). An International consensus for assessing internet gaming disorder using the new DSM-5 approach. Society for the Study of Addiction, (109) 9. doi: 10.1111/add.12457