‘Gaming disorder’ added as mental health condition. Here’s what you should know.

Man sitting in front of computer monitor with headset on

It’s official. Video game addiction, or “gaming,” has been added to the World Health Organization’s (WHO) list of mental health conditions. The disorder was added last week to WHO’s disease classification manual, which identifies health trends.

Audrey Nottke, director of nursing over behavioral health services at The Medical Center of Aurora, told the local Fox affiliate in Denver that she believes this is a step in the right direction.

“Right now we are seeing people spend up to 16 hours a day just playing on these video games, so this allows them to reach out for help,” Nottke said.

Some experts believe labeling “gaming” as a diagnosis is a bit premature.

“The behavioral health community is governed by the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5),” Nottke explained. “Currently, the DSM refers to internet gaming disorder as a ‘condition for further study’. However, I can safely say that behavioral health experts recognize all addictions and are supportive of any individual who reaches out to get help for a gaming disorder.”

If parents are struggling to control the amount of time their child spends in front of a screen, here’s what they should know about the newest mental health condition.

What is gaming disorder?

Gaming Disorder involves playing digital or video games to an excessive extent. According to WHO, there are three characteristics that define this disorder, including,

  • impaired control over gaming,
  • increasing priority given to gaming over other activities to the extent that the gaming takes precedence over other interests and daily activities, and
  • continuation or escalation of gaming despite the occurrence of negative consequences

What criteria does one have to meet to be considered as having the disorder?

Context is important when considering the criteria. However, if someone can answer yes to five of the following items within one year that might indicate an addiction:

  • Preoccupation or obsession with Internet games.
  • Feeling restless when not playing Internet games.
  • Craving more time playing the games.
  • The person has tried to stop or curb playing Internet games, but has failed to do so.
  • The person has had a loss of interest in other life activities, such as hobbies.
  • A person has had continued overuse of Internet games even with the knowledge of how much they impact a person’s life.
  • The person lied to others about his or her Internet game usage.
  • The person uses Internet games to relieve anxiety or guilt–it’s a way to escape.
  • The person has lost or put at risk and opportunity or relationship because of Internet games.
  • Gaming has started to interfere with job/school performance.
  • Feeling guilty or depressed about gaming.

Why do people choose gaming?

It offers:

  • a temporary escape,
  • constant measurable growth,
  • immediate feedback,
  • a challenge, and
  • social status, which is dependent on how well the individual plays the game. One’s status can improve quickly in gaming, which may not be the case outside of the game.

How to recognize gaming condition?

If a loved one starts:

  • losing interest in being socially active outside of the internet game,
  • no longer attends to various responsibilities (i.e. school, work, relationships), or
  • the person lies to others about his or her Internet game usage.

What can individuals do to replace gaming?

My recommendation is to encourage that person to learn a different hobby that involves other individuals. Activities like board games, sports or playing in a band are ideal. Also, there are a ton of great suggestions on the Game Quitters website here.

What are some resources people can go to for help?

Anyone who might need assistance for a gaming addiction can contact their local healthcare provider for evaluation and treatment. Individuals can also contact the substance abuse and mental health services administration’s national helpline at 1-800-662-HELP (4357). Help is also available at treatment centers that specialize in video game addictions, such as Cottonwood Tucson or reSTART.

Audrey Nottke serves as the director of nursing over behavioral health services at HealthONE’s The Medical Center of Aurora, an affiliate of HCA Healthcare. 

About HCA Healthcare

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