'Gaming Disorder' officially listed in World Health Organization diagnostic doc

The World Health Organization has finalized the draft for the 11th International Compendium of Diseases (ICD) revision, including a disorder involving video game addiction within its pages.

The World Health Organization has finalized the draft for the 11th International Compendium of Diseases (ICD) revision, opting to include a disorder involving video game addiction within its pages.

The 11th revision officially classifies “gaming disorder” alongside other addictive disorders, and with its finalization marks the first time any video game-related issues have appeared in the diagnostic manual, though official adoption by World Health Organization member states may still be years away.

The ICD-11, which can be fully viewed online, now defines gaming disorder as “a pattern of persistent or recurrent gaming behavior” that manifests as “impaired control over gaming, increasing priority given to gaming in the extent that gaming takes precedence over other life interests and daily activities, and the continuation or escalation of gaming despite the occurrence of negative consequences.” 

The diagnostic manual contains specific descriptions for predominately online, predominately offline, and undefined variants of the disorder, noting that in all cases that the behaviors are “normally evident over a period of at least 12 months in order for a diagnosis to be assigned” though this requirement is waived if all other diagnostic requirements are met and symptoms are deemed severe enough. 

Additionally, the ICD-11 now lists “hazardous gaming” along with things like hazardous substance use, hazardous gambling, lack of physical exercise, and others under “problems associated with health behaviors.”

The World Health Organization notes that a version of the ICD-11 was released on June 18 to allow WHO member states to prepare for implementation. Ultimately, pending endorsement during the organization’s executive board meeting and the World Health Assembly in 2019, member states are to start reporting using the ICD-11 on January 1, 2022. 

The organization first discussed including the classification late last year, and a number of professionals and organizations from within the video game industry have spoken up to voice criticism of the classification in the months since.

The Entertainment Software Association, the trade group that represents a number of major players in the US video game industry, notably spoke against the inclusion, saying that “putting that official [addictive] label on [games] recklessly trivializes real mental health issues like depression and social anxiety disorder.”

Other researchers have moved to publish an article in the Journal of Behavioral Addiction arguing against the decision, suggesting that the World Health Organization should err on the side of caution because "the burden of evidence and the clinical utility should be extremely high because there is a genuine risk of abuse of diagnoses.”

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