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Is gaming disorder a mental condition?

The World Health Organization (WHO) has officially listed gaming disorder as an ailment people suffer from and would need rehabilitation to cure.

WHO describes gaming disorder as having “impaired control over gaming, increasing priority given to gaming over other activities to the extent that gaming takes precedence over other interests and daily activities, and continuation or escalation of gaming despite the occurrence of negative consequences.”

They added that in order for the disorder to be diagnosed, those suffering would need to exhibit a pattern of severe behaviour that would impair their family and social lives or negatively impact their education.

Video game addiction is not unheard of and several cases have popped up throughout the years. A couple in 2010 neglected their child while obsessively playing video games. They were raising their virtual child, Anima, in a game called Prius Online. Meanwhile, their real daughter passed away from malnourishment and neglect. In 2015 a 32-year-old Taiwanese man died after a three-day gaming binge, which made him the second gaming-related death in Taiwan that year.

One of the more recent cases follows the story of a nine-year-old girl who was brought into rehabilitation for her Fortnite addiction. It was reported that she was playing for up to 10 hours a day and had even wet herself during a binge to avoid having to log off. Her mother expressed to Sunday People that she wasn’t aware of how addicted her daughter would be when allowing her to play.

Though WHO and various psychologists believe that gaming disorder is a sensible mental condition, gamers on Twitter were quick to shut the idea down. Many Twitter users and gamers specified how they spend 20 hours gaming a week and how classifying gaming as a disorder opens the door for more unjustified disorders.

Of those to express their concern was American wrestler Xavier Woods. He wrote on Twitter that “If this becomes a thing then it sets a precedent for anything to become a disorder. Reading too much, watching the world cup too much, hanging out with your spouse too much. At this point anything done too much that someone doesn’t get = a disorder.”

Other online personalities like Ben Broman (better known as ProfessorBroman online) wrote on Twitter that “[…] instead of raging at news organizations about reporting on this “gaming disorder” report, offer to educate and inform them about your passion and the good things gaming does on a daily basis. We control the conversation, we must do it in a respectful way.” Various studies have concluded that video games help children’s cognitive behaviour by improving multitasking and external functioning. Studies have also discovered that video games treat amblyopia and helps children overcome dyslexia.

WHO explains that the reason gaming disorder is included in the Revision of the International Classification of Diseases is because of available evidence and the general consensus of experts from around the world. They also warned that those who play video games for excessive periods of time should monitor how long they play and any negative changes to their mood or physical health.