'Gaming Disorder' recognized as a worldwide mental health condition

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Americans had "Pac-Man Fever" as far back as 1981 but it has taken until now for the World Health Organization to officially recognize that playing video games too often could be a mental health disorder.

The WHO is planning to add the term "Gaming Disorder" to its official list of diseases in 2018, according to a draft of the organization's 2018 International Classification of Diseases.

The WHO's description of Gaming Disorder says that those who are afflicted are characterized by a pattern of persistent or recurrent gaming behavior, either on digital devices like smartphones or video-gaming offline on machines.

According to the WHO's description you may have a problem if your symptoms include impaired control over gaming—you just can't stop playing. Right now you are jonesing for a round of "Horizon: Zero Dawn," "Assassin's Creed: Origins" or "Star Wars: Battlefront II," that millions are playing at this very second and you feel left out. This could be a red flag.

Or, you give an increased priority to playing video games to the point they take precedence over other life interests and daily activities like eating and sleeping and socializing.

And, the continuation and escalation of gaming continues even after you suffer negative consequences like getting fired for playing on company time or you keep losing relationships because you just aren't present.

The WHO's classification means that doctors and insurance companies can recognize Gaming Disorder as a disease.

The WHO's clinical description does not include prevention or treatment options.

But Forbes suggests you can self-diagnose by asking yourself the same questions people use to detect alcohol addition. Just swap the word "alcohol" for "gaming." If you identify strongly with the four questions you may have a problem and are advised to try to cut down:

- Have you ever felt you should cut down on your gaming?

- Have people annoyed you by criticizing your gaming?

- Have you ever felt bad or guilty about your gaming?

- Are video games usually the first thing you think about in the morning when you wake up?

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User comments

Dec 28, 2017
Let's see what we can do by substituting "Facebook" (or many other social media sites) where the article has "gaming."

Oh no! You must be drunk to spend that much time on Facebook (or many other social media sites!)

Dec 28, 2017
Naming every iteration of the same disorder is not helpful in my opinion. A focussed obsessive compulsive behaviour is a general condition that can have numerous manifestations from compulsive sexual behaviour to alcohol or drug ingestion to computer gaming or any other behaviour. The underlying condition, the focussed obsessive compulsive behaviour, is essentially the same but by treating each iteration as if it were a separate condition complicates research, puts up barriers to pooling information and research and delays the development of effective treatments.

I am reminded of the long list of the related condition, phobia. Each phobia is separately named but essentially the same condition with different foci and phobia is really just a subcategory of the focussed obsessive compulsive behaviour.

It is as if researchers wish to mark out territory for research which they then defend…it seems that we have some deep seated vestigial lekking behaviour.

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