Gaming Disorder Gains Worldwide Recognition

Key points to understand the new ICD-11 classification.

Posted Jun 18, 2018

The World Health Organization officially acknowledges Gaming Disorder as a behavioral addiction. The new edition of the International Classification of Diseases (ICD-11), set to be released in 2022, represents historical shift in the perception of gaming. When Gaming Disorder was placed as a consideration in the draft for the ICD-11, it was noted that although experts across the globe have agreed on the need to be careful, thorough, and research-informed when considering the classification, not all professionals have agreed on whether problematic gaming meets its own criteria for a concerning mental health condition. Further, international professionals continue to dispute whether the inclusion of a diagnosis for gaming would do more good than harm. Nevertheless, with the official inclusion of the ICD-11, it is important to understand the criteria and to be able to distinguish general gaming from potentially addictive behavior. 

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According to the ICD-11, Gaming Disorder may be a problem for someone who uses digital games and meets the following three criteria over the course of a year:

1. Impaired control over gaming

The inability to control gaming can be seen in terms of onset, frequency, intensity, duration, termination, context. For example, over the course of 12 months an individual may begin to have difficulty regulating overall usage. Although a person may have started with playing a game once a week, this may increase to feeling the need to play for several days for hours on end. This person may notice that they lose time while playing and have a difficult time deciding when to stop gaming. Also, whereas this person may have previously played in their home environment, the inability to control use may cause gaming to expand into social or occupational environments as well.

2. Increasing priority given to gaming

Even though someone may demonstrate the behaviors above, this person could still have their priorities aligned in which essential aspects for survival such as eating, working, and caring for family members are a clear priority over gaming. However, individuals who are facing an inability to control their use may shift gaming up over previously prioritized tasks. This prioritization may cause consequences in return such as drops in overall health, relationships, productivity, and employment.

3. Continued gaming despite negative consequences

If an individual experiences a decrease in the ability to control use and reorganizes priorities to budget for the importance of gaming, it is possible that such lifestyle changes would prompt negative consequences. Further, this impairment can be seen in important ares of functioning such as familial, social, and educational realms. However, it is also possible that an individual who has problem with gaming behaviors may appear to be be unaffected by these effects, may ignore these effects, or may minimize the influence of these effects. Further, the individual may even escalate use despite these effects.

According to the PEW Research Center, over half of American adults play video games. Considering this new classification, does this statistic mean that at least one in two adults should 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. Regardless of long periods of time a person may be immersed in games, the critical considerations highlight impairment, the progression of impairment, and inability to stop in spite of impairment, over the span of a year. Recognizing the three points of classification, time frame, and severity it is important to remember that while this new diagnosis may help individuals who experience problematic gaming to seek help, it does not mean that every gamer has a several mental health concern.