In 2018, playing video games obsessively might lead to a diagnosis of a mental health disorder.
In the beta draft of its forthcoming 11th International Classification of Diseases, the World Health Organization includes “gaming disorder” in its list of mental health conditions. The WHO defines the disorder as a “persistent or recurrent” behavior pattern of “sufficient severity to result in significant impairment in personal, family, social, educational, occupational or other important areas of functioning.”
The disorder is characterized by “impaired control” with increasing priority given to gaming and “escalation,” despite “negative consequences.”
Video game playing, either online or offline, must be “normally evident over a period of at least 12 months” for this diagnosis to be made, according to the beta draft guidance. However, if symptoms are severe and all requirements are met, health care professionals may include people who have been playing for shorter periods of time, the draft reads.
Gregory Hartl, a spokesman for the WHO, said the new ICD-11 entry on gaming disorder “includes only a clinical description and not prevention and treatment options.”
A guide to diagnose and categorize
Hartl described the ICD as the “basis for identification of health trends and statistics globally and the international standard for reporting diseases and health conditions. It is used by medical practitioners around the world to diagnose conditions and by researchers to categorize conditions.”
This comprehensive list is intended to make it easier for scientists to share and compare health information between hospitals, regions and countries. It also enables health care workers to compare data in the same location over different time periods. Additionally, public health experts use the ICD to track the number of deaths and diseases.
The existing version of the ICD was endorsed by the World Health Assembly, the decision-making body of WHO, in May 1990 and currently is used by more than 100 countries around the world. The forthcoming version of the ICD will be published in May 2018.
“Inclusion of a disorder in ICD is a consideration which countries take into account when making decisions on provision of health care and allocation of resources for prevention, treatment and rehabilitation,” Hartl said. By adding “gaming disorder” to the ICD, the WHO makes this health condition an official diagnosis that can be used by health care workers, including doctors
Chris Ferguson, a professor of psychology at Stetson University in Florida whose research interests include video games and other media violence effects, described the ICD as “the book of real diseases that you can get insurance payments for.”
“People who have treatment centers for video game addiction or a gaming disorder will now be able to get reimbursed,” said Ferguson. “In the past, they have not. It will be a financial boon for those centers.”
The WHO’s ICD lists both mental and physical disorders. The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition, or DSM-5 is the most recent manual produced by the American Psychiatric Association, and includes only mental disorders.
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