The newest edition of the International Classification of Diseases and Related Health Problems manual is due to be published by the WHO next year, and it’s been announced that it’s expected to include gaming disorder as a classified health condition. It’s the first time this type of disorder will be recognised by the organisation as a serious health condition in the guidelines, which are the international “standard diagnostic tool for epidemiology, health management and clinical purposes”.

The final wording and treatment recommendations for the disorder have yet to be announced, however a report in New Scientist has revealed some of the criteria that are needed to determine whether an individual should be classed as having a gaming disorder that needs to be monitored.

Vladimir Poznyak, a member of the WHO’s Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse has commented on the study, saying that these types of disorders are a serious issue and need to be addressed. He said “Health professionals need to recognise that gaming disorder may have serious health consequences,” he said. “Most people who play video games don’t have a disorder, just like most people who drink alcohol don’t have a disorder either. However, in certain circumstances overuse can lead to adverse effects.”

The possible health implications of gaming disorders have recently been highlighted in a study carried out by University of Oxford’s Internet Institute.  Researchers investigated the percentage of gamers who are addicted to video games, and found that 2-3% of participants showed at least five symptoms from the American Psychiatric Association checklist of health symptoms of “internet gaming disorder”. These symptoms include anxiety, antisocial behaviour and withdrawal symptoms”

Dr Andrew Przybylski, lead author from the University of Oxford study, published his thoughts on the study: “To our knowledge, these are the first findings from a large-scale project to produce robust evidence on the potential new problem of ‘internet gaming disorder. Contrary to what was predicted, the study did not find a clear link between potential addiction and negative effects on health; however, more research grounded in open and robust scientific practices is needed to learn if games are truly as addictive as many fear.”

There are still debates among scientists as the impact of gaming on mental health, however research has shown that the amount of time many people spend glued to video game screens is a cause for concern.  A recently published poll showed that 10% of gamers surveyed spent at least 12-24 hours gaming without a break. Mark James, a security specialist at ESET who conducted the survey said “Gaming is highly addictive, and it is no wonder so many respondents from our study admit to playing them for so long.”

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