Come June this year, the World Health Organization will update the International Classification of Diseases to officially recognize excessive gaming as a mental disorder. According to WHO, ‘gaming disorder’ is “characterized by impaired control over gaming, increasing priority given to gaming over other activities to the extent that gaming takes precedence over other interests and daily activities, and continuation or escalation of gaming despite the occurrence of negative consequences.”
This might be a little hard to believe for some; after all, It’s not like gaming is physically addictive like smoking. It can’t be that hard to just put the controller down or turn the computer off, right?
Lisa Pont, a social worker at the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH) in Toronto, begs to differ. Pont has “…been seeing people coming to CAMH for treatment for almost 10 years, so whether it was an official diagnosis or not, we could observe people were having problems with (video games) and we needed to respond to those problems…. I don’t think we’re 100% all in agreement on what the conceptualization of it is, but there are definite themes and phenomenon that seem to be consistent.”
WHO has been studying reports coming in from students about recognizing “problematic symptoms” linked to gaming since 2014. The American Psychiatric Association has had ‘internet gaming disorder’ flagged as an area of further study since 2013, although they haven’t pursued it yet. A CAMH study released in 2016 estimated that over 120,000 students experienced symptoms related to gaming disorder. This is a real problem, and it’s not slowing down.
Honestly, I think it’s amazing that gaming disorder has taken this long to be recognized. Gambling has long been recognized as a source of obsession and focus, and nobody seems surprised that gambling disorder is a thing. Just because it doesn’t necessarily include money (microtransactions are a whole other ballgame) doesn’t mean it’s not a source of serious issues. When taken away from their games, people have been known to fall into depression and commit suicide, and yet it’s only now that the problem is becoming known.
Of course, that’s not to say that video games themselves are the problem. I can see parents and baby-boomers everywhere, not to mention Donald Trump, latching onto the gaming disorder’s new classification as proof that all video games everywhere are awful, horrible, terrible things. I don’t see them vilifying lottery tickets and poker tournaments, and we’ve had gambling disorder for a long time.
Once June rolls around, gaming disorder will be diagnosed as causing “significant impairment in personal, family, social, educational, occupational or other important areas of functioning and would normally have been evident for at least 12 months,” according to WHO. If you know someone that eschews all human contact in favor of gaming…
Maybe take them for a checkup?