The WHO Classifies Video Game Addiction as a Mental Health Condition

The World Health Organization has classified video game addiction as a disorder, but some industry folk do not agree with the classification.

Gaming disorder (more commonly referred to as “video game addiction”) has recently been classified as a mental health condition by the WHO (World Health Organization), as published in its International Classification of Diseases (ICD-11), several years after being excluded from APA’s (American Psychiatric Association) most recent edition of its Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) book, published in 2013. The reason for this was that there was not “enough evidence to determine whether gaming disorder is a unique mental health condition.”

Global gaming organizations, however, disagree with this new classification. A joint press statement released on May 25th expressed, in direct address to the WHO that, “‘gaming disorder’ is not based on sufficiently robust evidence to justify its inclusion in one of the WHO’s most important norm-setting tools,” – just as the APA had claimed back in 2013. The collective quote was signed by video game industry representatives from the United States, Australia, China, South Africa, and others working in organizations such as the ESA (Entertainment Software Association), “[ESA Canada], the Interactive Games & Entertainment Association, the Interactive Software Federation of Europe, and the Korea Association of Game Industry (K-GAMES).”

In the ICD-11, gaming disorder is described as “a pattern of persistent or recurrent gaming behaviour, which may be online or offline, manifested by impaired control over gaming, increasing priority given to gaming to the extent that gaming takes precedence over other life interests and daily activities and continuation or escalation of gaming despite the occurrence of negative consequences.”

Emotionally, symptoms include experiencing negative feelings (irritability, sadness, craving, etc.) when unable to play video games; pushing aside responsibilities and risking relationships, employment, and/or health to play video games. Physical symptoms include fatigue, migraines from eye strain, and poor personal hygiene. The WHO states that for an individual to be diagnosed with gaming disorder, this individual will typically have to have been experiencing several symptoms of the disorder for about a year prior to diagnosis.

Video games are said to have such a powerful impact on players because they use behavioral psychology to keep you captivated. “Games are immersive experiences that provide you with a high amount of dopamine, and overexposure to this level of stimulation can cause structural changes to your brain.” What separates most gamers from those afflicted with the addiction is the ability to step away from gaming when fatigue sets in, a long time has elapsed since the beginning of the play session, or when other activities and responsibilities have to be performed or attended to. According to the WHO, an estimated 3 – 4% of the billions of video game players are afflicted with gaming disorder.

Here are some links to some appalling stories about video game addiction

Note: read and view with discretion; stories not suitable for the faint of heart.

Article: “15 Insane Video Game Addiction Stories That Will Frighten You” by Alex Eagleton



For more information on gaming disorder visit
PsychGuides‘s article on video game addiction
Game Quitters‘s article on video game addiction