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WHO says video game addiction is mental health disorder

World Health Organization of the United Nations has identified video game addiction as a mental disorder. (PHOTO/NET)

World Health Organization (WHO) has officially recognized gaming addiction as a Mental Health Disorder.

Video games are popular. They are controversial. And now, video games have just become an internationally recognized addiction.

On May 25, the WHO officially voted to adopt the latest edition of its International Classification of Diseases (ICD) to include an entry on “gaming disorder” as a behavioral addiction.

The WHO’s ICD, describes addiction to digital and video gaming as “a pattern of persistent or recurrent gaming behavior” that becomes so extensive it “takes precedence over other life interests”.

In order to be classified as having a disease, being a video game fan isn’t enough.

According to WHO, the criteria doesn’t include a certain amount of hours spent playing. Instead, the description is of someone with an inability to stop playing even though it interferes with other areas of one’s life, such as family relationships, school, work, and sleep. And, these problems would typically continue for at least one year.

The WHO’s expert on mental health and substance abuse, Shekhar Saxena, said some of the worst cases seen in global research were of gamers playing for up to 20 hours a day, forgoing sleep, meals, work or school and other daily activities.

This is a move that could alarm parents all over the world. It should be highlighted that 97 percent of teen boys and 83 percent of girls play games on some kind of device.

Shekhar stressed that only a small minority of people who play digital and video games would develop a problem, but said recognition of early warning signs may help prevent it.

“This is an occasional or transitory behavior,” he said, adding that only if such behavior persists for around a year could a potential diagnosis of a disorder be made.

Responding to the decision to including gaming addiction, the Video Games Coalition, an industry lobby group said their products were “enjoyed safely and sensibly by more than 2 billion people worldwide” across all kinds of genres, devices, and platforms.

It added that the “educational, therapeutic, and recreational value” of games was well-founded and widely recognized and urged the WHO to reconsider.

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