Gaming Addiction Officially Recognized as Mental Health Disorder

Man playing video game in dark
Man playing video game in dark Yuri_Arcurs / Getty Images

It’s all fun and games until someone spirals out of control with their gaming. At least that’s how the World Health Organization sees it.

Back in December, 2017, the organization announced it was going to recognize gaming disorder—described as “discontinuation or escalation of gaming despite the occurrence of negative consequences”—would officially become recognized as a serious mental health disorder in 2018, according to a beta draft of the WHO’s 11th International Classification of Diseases.

Well, the time has come.

WHO’s officially included video game addiction as a mental health disorder in their most recent disease classification manual.

That doesn’t mean decompressing with half an hour of “Call of Duty: WWII” every night after work qualifies as an addiction. But if your prioritization of game time becomes severe enough that it takes a toll on your personal and professional lives, either continuously or in recurring spurts, you could be in need of professional help. Experts say symptoms can include loss of control, disinterest in socialization, and irritability or aggression.

Experts typically need a 12-month period to assess the patient to clinically describe their condition, according to the beta draft. And while there aren’t any prevention and/or treatment options from the WHO just yet, there are plenty of treatment centers around the world to help people afflicted with video game addictions and gaming disorders (online and offline) as a whole. Check out American Addiction Centers for video game addiction symptoms and treatment.

Of course some gamers are aggravated by the announcement, as gaming, for many, is a way to decompress. Likewise, there’s widespread concern from health professionals.

“Research on what may loosely be called ‘video game addiction’ has been ongoing for 30 years,” the American Psychiatric Association said in a statement. “Nonetheless, that research has not provided clarity on how to define video game addiction (VGA), what symptoms best diagnose it, how prevalent it is, or whether it truly exists as an independent disorder, or, when it occurs is merely symptomatic of other, underlying mental health diagnoses.”