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In 2018, the World Health Organization plans to add “gaming disorder” – characterized by a pattern of persistent or recurrent gaming behavior – to its list of mental health conditions. The WHO’s impending beta draft for the next ICD classifies gaming disorder as a pattern of behavior with “impaired control over gaming,” in terms of its frequency, intensity, duration, and the capacity to quit. The disorder falls under the parent category of “Disorders due to addictive behaviors,” and is characterized by giving increased priority to gaming over other daily activities. Applying to both online and offline video gaming, the condition is also defined by the “continuation or escalation of gaming despite the occurrence of negative consequences.” In order to be diagnosed, these behaviors must be evident over a period of at least 12 months, according to the draft.

Addiction can take many forms though most people believe associate it with drugs or with extreme alcoholism. But that is far from it as addiction is also linked to a chronic pattern of a particularly complicated behavior.

Video game addiction has begun to draw the attention of the whole world, especially in the light of the recent announcement made by the World Health Organization (WHO). The United Nations medical organization has come to a conclusion that video game addiction should be classified as a gaming disorder or mental health disorder which should be taken more seriously than it currently is.

Video addiction is viewed as a disorder that is associated with impulse control and this has to do with the inability of resisting the urge, the temptation, and impulse to hurt oneself or others as well. Impulse control disorder is also linked with sex addiction, pathological gambling as well as uncontrollable shopping.

Video game addiction can also be referred to as the compulsive or pathological use of video games/computer games. This is probably why many psychologists have proposed that video game addiction should be officially classified as a mental health or psychiatric disorder.

The reason for classifying video game as a mental health disorder is not far-fetched: video gamers who have become addicted to computer games suffered from diminished control over gaming endeavors. The severity of this health disorder can escalate to the extent that playing video games takes higher priority over every other aspect of life and daily activities of the gamer.

The following are the major characteristics of video game addiction:

–    Gamers are powerless when it comes to controlling the amount of time they spend playing video games.

–    The incessant compulsion to play video games.

–    The increasing supremacy of playing video games in the gamers life

–    Emotional or mental behaviors such as the increasing urge to play video games or withdrawal.

Health experts have continued to deliberate on whether or not, video game addiction should be categorized as a mental health disorder. This perhaps is not unconnected to the fact that almost all forms of addiction are associated with one form of psychiatric disorder or another and could even be life-threatening. An extreme case of video game addiction that bears mentioning is the case of a man from South Korea who played a video game continuously for more than 48 hours. The 28-year old man experienced heart failure and passed away.

In the same vein, the journal of Psychological Science in 2009 also highlighted the fact that approximately 8.5% of the youths – between ages 8 and 18 – living in the United States and played video games also showcased signs of behavioral addiction to the computer games. This is why experts that are calling for the classification of video game addiction as a mental health disorder state that it is almost the same with addiction caused by alcohol or drugs.

Nevertheless, other health professionals have debated that the classification of video game addiction as a ‘mental health disorder’ is scientifically baseless. A professor of psychology at a university in Florida who has given time to study the impact of video games on the society had this to say:

“Medical evidence has shown that gaming disorder is an indication of some underlying mental health issues. In fact, people that play video games use the activity as a way to cope with these health problems.”

If the International Classification of Diseases eventually recognizes and accept video gaming addiction as a mental health disorder, then chances are that insurance organizations will likely compensate video game addiction treatment facilities.


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