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6 Signs of Gaming Disorder

Experts weigh in on the controversial ‘gaming disorder.’

The other day, I saw somebody playing Roblox on his laptop and Pokémon GO on his phone at the same time. The multitasking spectacle got me thinking about gaming disorder, or problematic digital or video game behavior, which was just added to the ICD-11.

According to the WHO, here are six signs of gaming disorder:

  1. Impaired control over gaming.
  2. Gaming becomes more important than other activities of daily living thus resulting in compromised functioning or distress. For instance, gaming could take precedence over school work, job responsibilities, or social activities.
  3. Gaming persists in spite of repercussions.
  4. Gaming takes up a substantial amount of time and dominates waking hours.
  5. Gaming disturbs patterns of sleep and physical fitness, as well as nutrition.
  6. The duration of gaming disorder must last at least 12 months.
Source: dolgachov/123RF

According to the WHO, gaming disorder affects only a minority of gamers, and a diagnosis can be made only by a specialist.

The topic is controversial, with a DSM-5 Substance Use Disorders workgroup finding limited evidence supporting the current recognition of the more-general "Internet addiction" as a mental disorder. Furthermore, different experts define gaming disorder differently, and there is no gold-standard test for it.

In a recent systematic review published in Psychology of Addictive Disorders, authors found “a paucity of well-designed treatment outcome studies and limited evidence for the effectiveness of any treatment modality. Studies were limited by methodological flaws, including small sample sizes, lack of control groups, and little information on treatment adherence, among other problems.”

Finally, it should be noted that despite a lack of consensus in defining gaming disorder, which should logically precede any bona fide treatment approaches, various online services have popped up offering therapy.