WHO classifies video game addiction as a mental health disorder

June 18 (UPI) — The World Health Organization has determined that “gaming disorder” is a new mental health condition.

On Monday, the U.N.’s health agency announced it will add extreme video game playing as a condition in the 11th edition of the International Classification of Diseases manual.

“The ICD is a product that WHO is truly proud of,” Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO director-general, said in a press release. “It enables us to understand so much about what makes people get sick and die, and to take action to prevent suffering and save lives.”

WHO said the ICD team received more than 10,000 proposed revisions for the newest edition of the document. In May 2019, ICD-11 will be presented at the World Health Assembly for adoption by member states and be effective in January 2022.

WHO said its early release will allow countries “to plan how to use the new version, prepare translations, and train health professionals all over the country.”

In addition, ICD is also used by health insurers whose reimbursements depend on ICD coding as well as national health program managers, data collection specialists and others tracking progress in global health and determine the allocation of health resources.

The manual defines gaming disorder as “characterized by a pattern of persistent or recurrent gaming behavior,” and puts emphasis on online game play.

The disorder can consist of an impaired control over the frequency, intensity and duration of gaming, increasing priority given to gaming to the point that it takes precedence over other daily activities and commitments, and a continuation or escalation of gaming despite it’s negative consequences on other parts of life.

WHO said this situation is severe enough to result in “significant impairment in personal, family, social, educational, occupational or other important areas of functioning. “

It may be continuous or episodic and recurrent, but the aspects of the disorder are usually evident for at least 12 months in order to necessitate a diagnosis.

Dr. Vladimir Poznyak, a member of WHO’s Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse, told CNN the number of people classified with the disorder is “very low.”

“Millions of gamers around the world, even when it comes to the intense gaming, would never qualify as people suffering from gaming disorder,” Poznyak said. “And let me emphasize that this is a clinical condition, and clinical diagnosis can be made only by health professionals which are properly trained to do that.”

He said most interventions or treatments are “based on the principles and methods of cognitive behavioral therapy.” They include psychosocial interventions, social support, understanding of the conditions and family support.

The new ICD edition also includes chapters on traditional medicine, which never had been classified, as well as a new chapter on sexual health that brings together conditions previously categorized in other ways.

“A key principle in this revision was to simplify the coding structure and electronic tooling — this will allow health care professionals to more easily and completely record conditions,” said Dr. Robert Jakob, leader of the WHO’s Classifications Terminologies and Standards team.

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