WHO recognizes excessive video gaming as new mental health disorder

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The World Health Organization has made it official: digital games can be addictive, and those addicted to them need help.

Your child’s proclivity for spending all day playing video games could be more than just a nuisance. This week, the World Health Organization recognized “gaming disorder” as a new mental health condition.

The 11th version of the International Classification of Diseases (ICD-11) lists gaming disorder under other disorders due to addictive behavior. The organization describes the issue as “impaired control over gaming … increasing priority given to gaming … and continuation or escalation of gaming despite the occurrence of negative consequences.” WHO said the condition must be present for 12 months for the disorder to be diagnosed.

Health-care companies and insurance providers often use the ICD list to determine reimbursement and inclusion in their plans.

According to a 2015 survey from the Pew Research Center, half of American adults play video games and 10 percent consider themselves “gamers.”

The inclusion of the new disorder in ICD-11 has garnered mixed reviews among medical professionals.

“The benefit of having gaming disorder as its own diagnosis is that it can be applied consistently in research and potential treatment approaches that are focused on this issue,” said James Luebbert, director of the division of child and adolescent psychiatry at Sidney Kimmel Medical College at Thomas Jefferson University.

But Luebbert also cautioned that it will be difficult for providers to determine if the disorder exists alone or is a symptom of a different condition.

“If the child is involved in excessive video game activity, it can be because they’re depressed or anxious, or on the autism spectrum and may be more comfortable with the game interactions than with person-to-person social interactions,” Luebbert said. “So are you dealing with a separate condition? Or is it a part of some other diagnosed condition that has its own primary treatment focus?”

Joan Harvey, a spokesperson for the British Psychological Society, also warned that recognizing gaming disorder as a mental health condition could cause misdiagnoses and lead to unnecessary treatment for some.

“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,” Harvey told CBS News.