World Health Organization Adds Gaming Disorder To Database Amid Sparse Research Controversy
Gaming Disorder WHO ICD-11

The World Health Organization finally added Gaming Disorder as a mental health issue to the ICD-11 database, which covers common disorders and uncommon disorders. This means that the criteria for gaming as a disorder has been mandated by WHO, and will be applied accordingly to future research, treatment, and application of mental health awareness regarding disorders associated with gaming.

The WHO published a video to help explain why Gaming Disorder was added to the database, with a three minute video covering the basics. You can watch it below.

Dr Shekhar Saxena, the director at the department of mental health and substance abuse at the World Health Organization, explained why they added video games to the ICD-11, saying…

“Gaming Disorder has now been added because of very clear scientific evidence that it has characteristic signs and symptoms, and there is need and demand for treatment from many regions of the world…But let me just add that everybody who indulges in gaming from time to time doesn’t have this disorder. In fact, it’s only a minority of people who game who will satisfy the strict criteria for Gaming Disorder in ICD-11.”

Outfits like the BBC have attempted to paint this as a good thing, while obviously gamers, content creators, and gaming personalities have recoiled at the inclusion of gaming in the mental health disorder database given the kind of negative connotations that gaming already has in the media, and the constant propaganda pushed by certain groups to paint gamers in as negative a light as possible. Psychology major and gamer, Xavier Woods, pointed out that if gaming in excess is a mental health disorder than what about spending time with a spouse in excess? Or working in excess? Or any hobby for that matter?

The controversy extends beyond the ratification of having gaming added to the ICD-11 catalog, as some psychologists, doctors, and academics have been rallying against the inclusion – not that they deny that addiction to gaming exists, but they feel as if there’s a lack of research regarding the matter and that proper studies should be done before it’s added to the World Health Organization Database.

26 scholars put together a rebuttal against the inclusion, but their words weren’t heeded.

Additionally, the Entertainment Software Association, represents gaming publishers and gaming industry regulations, also spoke out against the WHO’s decision to add “Gaming Disorder” to the ICD-11 database.

The decision was also mired in additional controversy when last March in 2017, there were reports that some of the members of the World Health Organization were being pressured by Asian countries to include gaming as a mental health disorder to the ICD-11 database. The scholars wrote in the open letter…

““Just like avid sports fans and consumers of all forms of engaging entertainment, gamers are passionate and dedicated with their time. Having captivated gamers for more than four decades, more than 2 billion people around the world enjoy video games. The World Health Organization knows that common sense and objective research prove video games are not addictive. And, putting that official label on them recklessly trivializes real mental health issues like depression and social anxiety disorder, which deserve treatment and the full attention of the medical community. We strongly encourage the WHO to reverse direction on its proposed action.”

According to Platinum Paragon, there’s also dissension amongst some professionals in the mental health field who feel as if WHO jumped the gun. Various researchers state that a lot more research and studies were required before adding “Gaming Disorder” to the database. However, not everyone agrees with those professionals.

There are some who think that the time was now, and those who are for the addition of “Gaming Disorder” as a legitimate mental health issue cite that since it wasn’t legitimatized as a disorder before, those who suffered from gaming disorder couldn’t get proper treatment, and thus the militarized “re-education” camps have become the go-to method in regions like South Korea and China. However, adding “Gaming Disorder” to the World Health Organization’s database doesn’t guarantee that the militarized camps to break gaming addiction will go away.

According to Platinum Paragon, you likely won’t see the results right away, as it will take a while to adapt and utilize the entry in any effective way for treating gaming as a disorder, and there’s supposedly no pressure or time-frame in which the disorder can be addressed internationally…

“[…] it will be a number of years before the ICD-11 is used and member countries are placed under no time restriction for moving on to the ICD-11. Before moving on, each country will assess the proposed criteria and suggest changes based on evidence. As such, what is published on Gaming Disorder in
2018 is likely to change as more countries assess the ICD-11 within clinical samples.”

Nevertheless, the entry is now official and we’ll see where things go from here.

(Thanks for the news tip Lyle)


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Billy has been rustling Jimmies for years covering video games, technology and digital trends within the electronics entertainment space. The GJP cried and their tears became his milkshake. Need to get in touch? Try the Contact Page.

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