World Health Organization Considers Gaming Disorder

What does the new addition to the ICD-11 mean for you?

Posted Mar 05, 2018

The World Health Organization plans to include Gaming Disorder in the upcoming International Classification of Diseases (ICD-11). The contentious debate of whether or not to include the diagnosis persists beyond the WHO’s decision. International scholars seem to agree that a careful, thorough, and research-informed decision-making process is critical. However, experts continue to dispute multiple points of contention:

  • Can gaming be concerning?
  • Is Gaming Disorder a distinct diagnosis or simply a symptom of an underlying problem?
  • Is there sufficient scholarly support to classify Gaming Disorder?
  • Of the existing literature, is the caliber of the research adequate?
  • Would a diagnosis help individuals who are affected?
  • Will the diagnosis perpetuate stigma?
  • Would the addition cause moral panic?
Olichel/Pixabay
Source: Olichel/Pixabay

When reviewing the legitimacy of the "Gaming Disorder" label, scholars assert excellent considerations on both sides. If you are interested in understanding the debate further, I suggest you pop over to the reference list. The contested topics are certainly worth reflection. However, at this point in time, the World Health Organization has made the decision include Gaming Disorder in the present ICD-11. Hence, debate aside, I’d like to focus on a few practical points that may help you to better understand the new classification, and how it may affect you.

According to the PEW Research Center, over half of American adults play video games. Should at least one in two adults be worried? The answer is no. Although there have been reports of individuals facing consequences due to gaming, it’s important to remember that there is a difference between a general user and someone who may be dealing with a gaming concern. We have to be careful to not overgeneralize.

Per the present ICD-11 draft, two key components are essential: (1) severe impairment in important areas of functioning (e.g., personal, social) and (2) impairment for a minimum of 12 months. From the broader areas of affected functioning, here are a few examples that may signal impairment:

  • Needing to increase the frequency, intensity, or duration of gaming
  • Difficulty reducing the frequency, intensity, or duration of gaming
  • Prioritizing gaming over important life functions
  • Continued gaming despite personal, family, social, educational, or occupational concerns

Further, the general time criterion includes the existence of such impairment for at least 12 months. Hence, there is not a threshold of usage per person that signals the jump from general use to addictive use. Regardless of long periods of time immersed in games, the critical consideration is impairment, and the progression of impairment, over the span of a year. Recognizing the severity and time frame, many gamers would not be considered to be dealing with this disorder.

Stocksnap/Pixabay
Source: Stocksnap/Pixabay

As with other behavioral addictions, scholars hold split opinions on whether the diagnostic marker would cause panic, or whether a growing concern without a classification would cause panic. In tending to your own concerns, be conscientious in the process. Remain open to information, and aware of the facts. The ICD-11 is not yet finalized. As feedback is gathered, it is possible that this criteria may change. The tentative presentation to the World Health Assembly is currently scheduled for May 2018, and until then, we will have to stay tuned. As information releases related to Gaming Disorder, be sure to be mindful and informed. Don’t jump to conclusions, and be sure to check your sources. 

References

Aarseth, E., Bean, A. M., Boonen, H., Carras, M. C., Coulson, M., Das, D., & ... Rooij, A. V. (2017). Scholars' open debate paper on the World Health Organization ICD-11 Gaming Disorder proposal. Journal of Behavioral Addictions, (3), 267. doi:10.1556/2006.5.2016.088

Billieux, J., King, D. L., Higuchi, S., Achab, S., Bowden-Jones, H., Hao, W., & ... Poznyak, V. (2017). Functional impairment matters in the screening and diagnosis of gaming disorder: Commentary on: Scholars' open debate paper on the World Health Organization ICD-11 Gaming Disorder proposal (Aarseth et al.). Journal of Behavioral Addictions, (3), 285. doi:10.1556/2006.6.2017.036

Brink, W. D. (2017). ICD-11 Gaming Disorder: Needed and just in time or dangerous and much too early? Commentary on: Scholars' open debate paper on the World Health Organization ICD-11 Gaming Disorder proposal (Aarseth et al.). Journal of Behavioral Addictions, (3), 290. doi:10.1556/2006.6.2017.040

Griffiths, M. D., Kuss, D. J., Lopez-Fernandez, O., & Pontes, H. M. (2017). Problematic gaming exists and is an example of disordered gaming: Commentary on: Scholars' open debate paper on the World Health Organization ICD-11 Gaming Disorder proposal (Aarseth et al.). Journal of Behavioral Addictions, (3), 296. doi:10.1556/2006.6.2017.037

Higuchi, S., Nakayama, H., Mihara, S., Maezono, M., Kitayuguchi, T., & Hashimoto, T. (2017). Inclusion of gaming disorder criteria in ICD-11: A clinical perspective in favor: Commentary on: Scholars' open debate paper on the World Health Organization ICD-11 Gaming Disorder proposal (Aarseth et al.). Journal Of Behavioral Addictions, (3), 293. doi:10.1556/2006.6.2017.049

James, R. J., & Tunney, R. J. (2017). The relationship between gaming disorder and addiction requires a behavioral analysis: Commentary on: Scholars' open debate paper on the World Health Organization ICD-11 Gaming Disorder proposal (Aarseth et al.). Journal of Behavioral Addictions, (3), 306. doi:10.1556/2006.6.2017.045

Kiraly, O., & Demetrovics, Z. (2017). Inclusion of Gaming Disorder in ICD has more advantages than disadvantages: Commentary on: Scholars' open debate paper on the World Health Organization ICD-11 Gaming Disorder proposal (Aarseth et al.). Journal of Behavioral Addictions, (3), 280. doi:10.1556/2006.6.2017.046

Lee, S., Choo, H., & Lee, H. K. (2017). Balancing between prejudice and fact for Gaming Disorder: Does the existence of alcohol use disorder stigmatize healthy drinkers or impede scientific research? Commentary on 'Scholars' open debate paper on the World Health Organization ICD-11 Gaming Disorder proposal'. Journal of Behavioral Addictions, (3), 302. doi:10.1556/2006.6.2017.047

van Rooij, A., Ferguson, C. Carras, M.C., Kardefelt-Winther, D. Shi, J., & Przybylski, A. (2018). A weak scientific basis for gaming disorder: Let us err on the side of caution. (Preprint) Retrieved from https://psyarxiv.com/kc7r9

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