The World Health Organisation says that compulsively playing video games now qualifies as a new mental health condition, in a move that some critics warn may risk stigmatising young gamers.
In its latest revision to an international disease classification manual, the UN health agency said Monday that classifying "Gaming Disorder" as a separate condition will "serve a public health purpose for countries to be better prepared to identify this issue."
Dr Shekhar Saxena, director of WHO's department for mental health, said WHO accepted the proposal that Gaming Disorder should be listed as a new problem based on scientific evidence.
But what exactly is considered a gaming disorder?
"Gaming disorder is defined in the draft 11th Revision of the International Classification of Diseases (ICD-11) as a pattern of gaming behavior characterised by impaired control over gaming, increasing priority given to gaming over other activities to the extent that gaming takes precedence over other interests and daily activities, and continuation or escalation of gaming despite the occurrence of negative consequences.
For gaming disorder to be diagnosed, the behaviour pattern must be of sufficient severity to result in significant impairment in personal, family, social, educational, occupational or other important areas of functioning and would normally have been evident for at least 12 months," WHO's official website says.
Dr Joan Harvey, a spokeswoman for the British Psychological Society, warned the new designation might cause unnecessary concern among parents and said only a minority of gamers would be affected. This sentiment is reflected in the WHO's official statement, which says, "Studies suggest that gaming disorder affects only a small proportion of people who engage in digital or video-gaming activities."
A decision on inclusion of gaming disorder in ICD-11 is based on reviews of available evidence, WHO says, and reflects a consensus of experts from different disciplines and geographical regions that were involved in the process of technical consultations undertaken by WHO in the process of ICD-11 development.
The inclusion of gaming disorder in ICD-11 follows the development of treatment programmes for people with health conditions identical to those characteristic of gaming disorder in many parts of the world, and will result in the increased attention of health professionals to the risks of development of this disorder and, accordingly, to relevant prevention and treatment measures, the organisation said.
With inputs from AP