WHO classifies video game addiction as a mental disorder

Video game addiction will soon be listed as an official mental disorder, courtesy of the World Health Organization.

Falling under the same umbrella as gambling addiction, ‘gambling disorder’ has been added to the International Statistical Classification of Diseases and Related Health Problems. Better known as ICD-11, the classification serves as an international standard for diagnosing health-related issues. According to United States today, the updated list will come into effect from January 2022.

The official WHO diagnosis (which you can read here) lists symptoms such as prioritizing games and escalating gambling despite the potential negative consequences. The organization first added “Gaming Disorder” to its ICD-11 beta list in 2017, after reviewing research on the topic as far back as 1990. However, not everyone agrees with the most recent WHO assessment.

Last June, the American Psychological Association said there was “insufficient evidence to determine whether the condition is a single mental disorder.” Similarly, a team of researchers published a paper last year that also cited a lack of conclusive scientific evidence on the matter. One of the authors, Isabela Granic, caught on Twitter to reiterate why the disorder “shouldn’t be diagnosable.”

Shekhar Saxena, the WHO expert on mental health and addiction, defended the decision to Reuters. While he said ‘gaming disorder’ is ‘an occasional or transient behavior’, he thinks there is a need for mental health professionals to help spot any warning signs.

In addition to the lack of scientific consensus on the matter, video game groups are also not very happy with the decision. The Entertainment Software Association and the UK Interactive Association have both called on the WHO to reconsider their decision, saying it “is not based on strong enough evidence to justify its inclusion in one of the standards tools the most important of the WHO”.

At this point, it’s unclear how, or if, any of these blowbacks will impact the WHO’s decision before it takes effect in two and a half years. What do you think, can gambling be addictive?


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