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Addiction to video games is now a recognised illness

Those who suffer have trouble controlling their behaviours around gaming.

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Image: DPA/PA Images

ADDICTION TO VIDEO games will officially be recognised as a mental disorder from today.

The World Health Organisation has included “gaming disorder” in a new draft of its International Classification of Diseases (ICD), which was released today.

The entry for the illness says that those who suffer have trouble controlling their behaviours around gaming and give it precedence over the rest of their lives.

“Gaming disorder is characterised by a pattern of persistent or recurrent gaming behaviour (‘digital gaming’ or ‘video-gaming’), which may be online (i.e., over the internet) or offline, manifested by: 1) impaired control over gaming (e.g., onset, frequency, intensity, duration, termination, context); 2) increasing priority given to gaming to the extent that gaming takes precedence over other life interests and daily activities; and 3) continuation or escalation of gaming despite the occurrence of negative consequences.

The behaviour pattern is of sufficient severity to result in significant impairment in personal, family, social, educational, occupational or other important areas of functioning. The pattern of gaming behaviour may be continuous or episodic and recurrent. The gaming behaviour and other features are normally evident over a period of at least 12 months in order for a diagnosis to be assigned, although the required duration may be shortened if all diagnostic requirements are met and symptoms are severe.

The move means that those affected can now receive treatment, with Britain’s NHS prepared to treat children for free.

Anecdotal evidence suggests that the condition disproportionately effects younger people more connected to the ever-expanding online gaming world.

But last month WHO spokesman Tarik Jasarevic cautioned that it was premature to speculate on the scope of the problem.

“Gaming disorder is a relatively new concept and epidemiological data at the population level are yet to be generated”, he said.

Despite the lack of hard data, “health experts basically agree that there is an issue” and that official inclusion in the ICD is the next appropriate step, Jasarevic said.

“There are people who are asking for help”, he added, noting that formal recognition of the condition will help spur further research and resources committed to combating the problem.

With AFP

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