Gaming Addiction Is Now Recognized by the WHO


Video game addiction has been joked about for as long as video games have been in people’s homes. It’s an easy-enough joke to make – after all, the line between a dedicated fan with a time-consuming hobby and someone with a problem is relatively thin. People can get addicted and that’s a problem that we need to be careful about.

Over-protective parents and spouses are often concerned their loved ones may spend too much time in front of screens, however, for the most part, that is not the case – overuse of video games is considered problematic when it affects the health or overall quality of life of the person.

Not serious until it was

Another reason it wasn’t taken seriously was that video game addiction wasn’t recognized as an illness at all. The WHO or World Health Organisation keeps a dedicated compendium of medical diseases including such things as addictions. As of Monday, the 18th of June, it is officially included.

A new draft of the ‘International Classification of Diseases’ will contain a chapter on ‘gaming disorder’ as it is now called. The ICD is now in its 11th edition, and critics of video gaming have called for the consideration of this addiction for a long time.

Gaming Addiction Is Now Recognized by the WHO Blizzard Activision Booth Gamescom Marcus Verch

Some countries have actually already identified video game dependency as a major public health issue. One such country is South Korea. The country’s general attitude to games is different from that in Europe or America – there, eSports are considered all but on par with ‘traditional’ sports.

As a result of its huge disparity in video game popularity, the country treats problems that arise from it differently as well. More specifically, there are gaming addiction rehab centers that allow for recovery in the care of dedicated healthcare professionals.

Advanced countermeasures

Some 14% of teenagers are estimated to suffer from mental health issues relating to video games in the country, and laws have already been passed to help ease the situation. The so-called Shutdown law, also called the Cinderella law or the Juvenile Protection Act, forbids teenagers under the age of 16 from playing between the hours of 10 pm and 6 am. Minors are required to register identity cards online so their gaming time can be monitored and controlled.

Despite this, video game addiction remains a problem, and the clinics in the country aim to help. One such clinic, headed by Dr. Lee Tae Kyung uses (guide)books, such as Momo by Michael Ende, as part of their therapy, with the goal of showing patients that their time can be better spent offline and away from video games.

Gaming Addiction Is Now Recognized by the WHO Amazon Booth Gamescom Marcus Verch

In addition to books, patients have no access to electronic devices at all and engage in social interactions, even musical therapy and more to help them reconnect to the real world without the buffer of games in between. A regular sleep schedule is also enforced, to help patients relax and to get them accustomed to ‘normal’ life again.

In 2014, it was estimated that around 6% of the world population suffers from some form of dependency on the web and video games. This number is likely to have risen since then, making the move from WHO a welcome measure that will hopefully be able to help those who suffer from issues of this type.

Take care of yourself

While it is essential to distinguish between a regular gamer and an addict, there are some warning signs to keep an eye out for. These include irregular sleep patterns, skipped meals and a lack of interest in other activities. Although gaming itself is far from problematic, it can become an issue that has a significant impact on people’s lives and health.

It is still hard to estimate how many people are actively affected by this issue, but the move to include video game disorders in the DIC is definitely a good step – away from treating these problems as a joke and misdiagnosing them out of concern, and towards offering help to those who need it (and only those who need it). Stay safe. Have your breaks. And always remember: Gamers don’t let other gamers become addicts. GLHF.

Photo credit: The feature image “Quick Confused Sketch” has been done by Surian Soosay. The photos from the Amazon booth and the Blizzard booth at the Gamescom event 2017 photos in the body of the article have been done by Marco Verch.
Source: Geoffrey Cain (Time) / Tae Kyung Lee (Research Gate) / Cheng Cecilia, Li Angel Yee-lam (Mary Ann Liebert publishers) / John Power (Vice) / WHO Documentation / Wikipedia article on Shutdown law

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Melanie Hawthorne
Melanie Hawthorne
Mel is a UK-based journalist that has been writing about tech, science and video games for a few years now. After studying in Vienna, Austria she followed her dreams and moved to London. Said dreams took her through a few different jobs before she settled on what she really wanted to do – write about the exciting world of technology and the delightfully strange things it sometimes produces.
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