For video game addicts, it might be time to hit the restart button.
Compulsive game playing is now a mental health condition, the World Health Organization announced Monday in the latest edition of its disease classification manual.
The WHO defines a “gaming disorder” as having three major characteristics that experts say are similar to substance use disorders and gambling disorder.
“One is that the gaming behavior takes precedence over other activities to the extent that other activities are taken to the periphery,” Dr. Vladimir Poznyak, of the WHO’s Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse, told CNN.
The other two are impaired control over gaming and continuation or an increase in gaming despite negative consequences like “disturbed sleep patterns, like diet problems, like a deficiency in the physical activity,” Poznyak said.
The pattern of behavior must be present for at least 12 months before it can be officially diagnosed as a disorder.
“It cannot be just an episode of few hours or few days,” Poznyak warned.
The WHO estimated that gaming disorder only affects a “small proportion of people.”
The news was cheered by Hilarie Cash, co-founder of reSTART, one of the first inpatient treatment programs in the US for video game addiction.
“I’ve been surprised it’s taken so long for everybody to catch up to the fact. But I also understand that they need to have strong, research-based evidence before they bring on a new disorder,” she said. “I think it’s a game-changer, although how quickly the game will change, I don’t know.”
But not all health experts are convinced it’s a good thing to characterize too much screen time as a disorder. Some warned that it may cause unnecessary concern among parents.
“People need to understand this doesn’t mean every child who spends hours in their room playing games is an addict, otherwise medics are going to be flooded with requests for help,” said Dr. Joan Harvey, a spokeswoman for the British Psychological Society.
Gaming disorder has not yet been recognized as a mental health problem by the American Psychiatric Association, which previously said it’s “a condition warranting more clinical research and experience before it might be considered for inclusion” in its own manual.
Gaming disorder was officially added to the 11th revision of the WHO’s International Classification of Diseases manual published Monday. The ICD is used by doctors and health care professionals as a diagnostic standard and some insurance companies as a basis for reimbursement.
The gaming disorder designation comes after a 9-year-old girl in the United Kingdom was sent to rehab for obsessively playing the popular survival shooting game Fortnite, the Mirror reported last week.
“She is in therapy for the addiction after she became withdrawn, agitated and disturbed from playing up to 10 hours a day — sometimes playing until dawn, wetting herself so she didn’t have to leave the screen,” her mom said.
The viral game also has a huge following in New York.
With Post wires
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