WHO classifies 'gaming disorder' as a mental health condition

In the 11th Revision of the International Classification of Diseases, a new one has appeared: Gaming Disorder.


Someone who plays video games for a few hours each day could be known simply as a devoted gamer, but the World Health Organization (WHO) has a new classification for those who take it much further than that, to a point where it becomes a serious impairment

Gaming Disorder is now a recognized condition, appearing in the 11th Revision of the International Classification of Diseases. It will be debated for a while whether or not that's a legitimate disorder, but if the WHO is proposing it, it could end up as such.


This photo taken on March 11, 2011 shows two boys slugging it out in an Xbox 360 wrestling game at the IT Show 2011 in Singapore. (ROSLAN RAHMAN/AFP/Getty Images).

Much like other compulsive and addictive disorders, there are three major characteristics of it as proposed:

1) Gaming frequency and intensity are such that other activities in life—seeing friends, going outside of the house, even talking and basic interactions with other humans—are minimized in comparison. 

2) Even when negative consequences result from the addiction of either online or offline gaming, the "user" can't stop. 

3) The condition can result in disturbed sleep patterns, diet problems, and a severe reduction in physical activity. 

For a diagnosis, the behavior pattern should last at least 12 months, though the WHO is proposing exceptions in severe cases. 

The proposed disorder falls under the category of substance abuse or addictive behaviors, which reads: "Disorders due to substance use and addictive behaviours are mental and behavioural disorders that develop as a result of the use of predominantly psychoactive substances, including medications, or specific repetitive rewarding and reinforcing behaviours."

Dr. Joan Harvey, a spokeswoman for the British Psychological Society, recommends caution in diagnosing gamers from a distance: "People need to understand this doesn't mean every child who spends hours in their room playing games is an addict, otherwise medics are going to be flooded with requests for help," she said.

The WHO writes: "Studies suggest that gaming disorder affects only a small proportion of people who engage in digital- or video-gaming activities."

Here's Adam Alter with more about technological addictions:

A dark matter hurricane is crashing into Earth

Giving our solar system a "slap in the face"

Surprising Science
  • A stream of galactic debris is hurtling at us, pulling dark matter along with it
  • It's traveling so quickly it's been described as a hurricane of dark matter
  • Scientists are excited to set their particle detectors at the onslffaught
Keep reading Show less

We are heading for a New Cretaceous, not for a new normal

The climate change we're witnessing is more dramatic than we might think.

Image credit: NASA Goddard Space Flight Center from Greenbelt, MD, USA
Surprising Science

A lazy buzz phrase – 'Is this the new normal?' – has been doing the rounds as extreme climate events have been piling up over the past year. To which the riposte should be: it's worse than that – we're on the road to even more frequent, more extreme events than we saw this year.

Keep reading Show less

New study reveals what time we burn the most calories

Once again, our circadian rhythm points the way.

Photo: Victor Freitas / Unsplash
Surprising Science
  • Seven individuals were locked inside a windowless, internetless room for 37 days.
  • While at rest, they burned 130 more calories at 5 p.m. than at 5 a.m.
  • Morning time again shown not to be the best time to eat.
Keep reading Show less