The World Health Organization adds “Gaming Disorder” to its list of diseases

The World Health Organization (WHO) announced that it is officially recognizing “Gaming Disorder” as a disease. It was added as the 11th revision to the International Statistical Classification of Diseases and Related Health Problems and recognized this new disorder as “addictive behavior.”

According to the WHO’s ICD-11, this is the definition and characterization of the disorder:

“A pattern of persistent or recurrent gaming behavior (‘digital gaming’ or ‘video-gaming’), which may be online (i.e., over the internet) or offline, manifested by:

1. Impaired control over gaming (e.g., onset, frequency, intensity, duration, termination, context);

2. Increasing priority given to gaming to the extent that gaming takes precedence over other life interests and daily activities; and

3. Continuation or escalation of gaming despite the occurrence of negative consequences. The behavior pattern is of sufficient severity to result in significant impairment in personal, family, social, educational, occupational, or other important areas of functioning.”

The WHO explained the decision to include gaming as a disorder due to several expert opinions from a variety of disciplines, backgrounds, and regions of the world. The WHO claims that these experts brought forth substantial evidence that suggests gaming could be considered a disorder.

Many video-game industry representatives from around the world disagree with the decision and have called out the WHO, encouraging them to “re-examine” their decision in a joint statement.  The countries in this joint statement include Europe, the United States, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, South Korea, South Africa, and Brazil. 

“The WHO is an esteemed organization, and its guidance needs to be based on regular, inclusive, and transparent reviews backed by independent experts,” the statement said. “‘Gaming disorder’ is not based on sufficiently robust evidence to justify its inclusion in one of the WHO’s most important norm-setting tools.”

Gaming Disorder was first proposed as an addictive behavior in Dec. 2017, with the full definition finalized for ICD-11 back in June 2018. The decision to include it was met with pushback then, when the Entertainment Software Association stated that including gaming as a disorder “recklessly trivializes real mental health issues like depression and social anxiety disorder.”

ICD-11 is not a law, but it will have a profound influence on how politicians and experts view gaming and its potentially “addictive nature.” The revision of ICD-11 officially goes into effect Jan. 1, 2022. 

What’s your opinion on the WHO’s decision to include gaming as a disorder? Let us know in the comments!

Published by Nick Forsythe

Filmmaker, Journalist, Nintendo fanboy 🏳️‍🌈