19 Jun 2018

Gaming addiction declared a mental disorder

10:54 am on 19 June 2018

Many parents will have thought it for a long time, but they now have a new argument to limit their children's 'screen time' - addiction to video games has been recognised by World Health Organisation as a mental health disorder.

The WHO describes addiction to digital and video gaming as "a pattern of "persistent or recurrent gaming behaviour" that is so extensive it "takes precedence over other life interests".

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Photo: AFP

The classification is set out in the organisation's reference work of recognised and diagnosable diseases, the International Classification of Diseases (ICD).

The ICD has been updated over the past 10 years and now covers 55,000 injuries, diseases and causes of death.

Psychiatrist Richard Graham, who led the launch of the UK's first technology addiction service specifically for young people at Nightingale Hospital, London, said there was an important difference between enthusiastic gameplay and the new disorder.

Gamers could can spend hours in front of the screen without becoming addicted, he said.

"What we're talking about - and what the World Health Organisation is talking about - is the people who can no longer stop, no longer control their use.

"They're prioritising their gaming above pretty much everything else in their life.

"They keep doing that despite knowing that there are complications and things going wrong in their life as a result of the gaming."

The ICD forms a basis for the WHO and other experts to see and respond to trends in health, and is also used by health insurers whose reimbursements depend on the classifications.

"It enables us to understand so much about what makes people get sick and die, and to take action to prevent suffering and save lives," WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said in a statement as the ICD was published.

This latest version, ICD-11, is completely electronic for the first time, in an effort to make it more accessible to doctors and other health workers around the world.

It also includes changes to sexual health classifications. Previous editions had categorised sexual dysfunction and gender incongruence, for example, under mental health conditions, while in ICD-11 these move to the sexual health section. The latest edition also has a new chapter on traditional medicine.

The updated ICD is scheduled to be presented to WHO member states at their annual World Health Assembly in May 2019 for adoption in January 2022, WHO said in a statement.

- Reuters / RNZ

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