Video Game Addiction Will Be Recognized As A Mental Health Disorder In 2018

Photo: Audrey Shtecinjo

When will virtual reality start interfering with "real reality"? Many would argue that line has already been crossed, while passionate gamers say that virtual reality often is their actual reality. It's a tricky argument to make: Could one argue that reading too many books falls in the same category? Working too much? What is it that distinguishes video games from anything else—say, social media? The World Health Organization is attempting to further define the differences between passion and addiction. For one, an addicting behavior is defined as one that causes distress and interferes with one's personal functions as a result of repetitive actions to experience the rewards of that behavior. To the WHO, gaming and gambling are the two that warrant separate call-outs.

To that end, the WHO has moved to pinpoint video game addiction as an actual mental disorder in 2018, officially called "gaming disorder." Not surprisingly, there's been a fair amount of backlash both from gamers themselves and scientists in the field who have found beneficial effects from video games. Chris Ferguson, a psychology professor and prominent researcher who studies video game addiction and violence in the media, told CNN that diagnosing someone with "gaming disorder" might falsely diagnose the symptom, not the problem, one of the complications with the WHO's positioning.

Another reason the internet is rebelling against this diagnosis? They fear big pharma and insurance companies will get behind it for financial gain. The WHO's beta draft indicates three types of behavior that would define gaming addiction:

  • Impaired control over gaming (and the ability to not be gaming)
  • Increasing interest in gaming over other life priorities and interests
  • More time spent gaming, despite seeing negative consequences from spending too much time gaming

To be diagnosed, these habits need to be ongoing for at least a year, but they can be "episodic" or, if especially dire, diagnosed in the short term.

To improve mental health, check out the latest research on how working out can pump up your mood.

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