Video gaming can now officially become an addiction, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).
In the WHO’s 11th edition of its “International Classification of Diseases,” you’ll find an entry for “Gaming Disorder” as an addictive condition. Here’s a direct link: Gaming Disorder – WHO. To qualify as having a ‘gaming disorder,’ the WHO states that a person’s behavior must meet 3 major criteria:
- Gaming takes precedence over other activities, so much that a person often stops doing other things (like socializing or hobbies).
- A person continues gaming even when it causes issues in their life or they feel that they can’t stop.
- Gaming causes significant distress and impairments in a person’s relationships with others, as well as their work or school life.
Sound familiar? They should; these are the same behaviors you’ll find in drug and alcohol addicts.
Is Gaming Disorder an Addiction?
We’ve seen clients with two separate addiction disorders – addiction to a drug, and addiction to gaming. You might think, “Oh, they gamed to escape the drug addiction.” While that would have been preferable, it wasn’t the case. The gaming became another trap which consumed what remained of the client’s life.
As such, this WHO announcement comes as no big surprise to the Support Systems Homes team. Gaming Disorder is rare, but it is out there. When we first encountered clients with both disorders, we built some extra treatments into our counseling & sober living structures. We’re glad to say that our facilities are equipped to handle addiction in all its forms—including video gaming.
Occasional Gaming is Not a Disorder. A Constant Need to Game Is.
When it comes to video gaming, it’s important not to over-diagnose. If you ‘get into’ a game for a few days, then go back to normal routine after you’ve finished it? That’s not Gaming Disorder. It’s just having a good time with the game. Which is quite healthy!
In fact, video games can convey numerous benefits. Mental Floss shared a list of 15 benefits from video gaming that include:
- Helping children with autism
- Improving decision-making
- Reducing cravings
- Making new social connections, and even
- Improving the performance of surgeons!
For a person to receive a gaming disorder diagnosis, according to the WHO, they must engage in the obsession-level behavior for at least 12 months. Then we’re talking about an addiction. Not to a substance like heroin or meth, but to the activity of gaming. The addicted brain acts in a similar fashion.
Let’s finish this post off with an important note: The article we linked below references parents of children who may have gaming disorder. While children are especially vulnerable to a gaming addiction, everyone who games can become addicted.
Most children and adults will never develop gaming addiction, and that’s a great thing…but it pays to know that it’s out there. Just in case a friend or loved one starts to withdraw from life into their gaming console.