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A journalist with 13 years of experience on trade publications covering construction, local government, property, pubs, and transport.
January 8, 2018

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Gaming disorder: a new mental health threat?

The World Health Organisation (WHO) has created a new disorder related to video games for its draft revision of the International Classification of Diseases (ICD). But what is it? And what is the threat?

According to the WHO, the new disorder is still only present in the draft stage, and is yet to become an official part of the ICD.

But the creation of the condition – and the recognition of gaming on a person’s health – is likely to have radical implications in the future, including potentially how an employer should view the personal activities of a worker, and the subsequent impact on DSE and other workplace requirements.

The issue was picked up by a number of national press and lifestyle outlets – some of whom were sympathetic to the WHO draft. But Several articles referenced a TED talk where the issue of video games and impact on health and abilities was discussed:

Also, a statement from the Entertainment Software Association (ESA) claimed that the disorder lacked common sense, and “trivializes real mental health issues”.

The ESA said: “Gamers are passionate and dedicated with their time. Having captivated gamers for more than four decades, more than two billion people around the world enjoy video games.

“The World Health Organization knows that common sense and objective research prove video games are not addictive. And, putting that official label on them recklessly trivializes real mental health issues like depression and social anxiety disorder, which deserve treatment and the full attention of the medical community. We strongly encourage the World Health Organization to reverse direction on its proposed action.”

Below is how the WHO define the disorder, and why it has been included in the draft revision of the ICD.

What is gaming disorder?

Gaming disorder is defined in the draft 11th Revision of the International Classification of Diseases (ICD-11) as a pattern of gaming behavior (“digital-gaming” or “video-gaming”) characterized by 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.

For gaming disorder to be diagnosed, the behaviour pattern must be of sufficient severity to result in significant impairment in personal, family, social, educational, occupational or other important areas of functioning and would normally have been evident for at least 12 months.

What is the International Classification of Diseases?

The International Classification of Diseases (ICD) is the basis for identification of health trends and statistics globally and the international standard for reporting diseases and health conditions. It is used by medical practitioners around the world to diagnose conditions and by researchers to categorize conditions.

The inclusion of a disorder in ICD is a consideration which countries take into account when planning public health strategies and monitoring trends of disorders.

WHO is working on updating of the ICD. The 11th revision of the International Classification of Diseases (ICD-11) is scheduled for publication in mid-2018.

Why is gaming disorder being included in ICD-11?

A decision on inclusion of gaming disorder in ICD-11 is based on reviews of available evidence and reflects a consensus of experts from different disciplines and geographical regions that were involved in the process of technical consultations undertaken by WHO in the process of ICD-11 development.

The inclusion of gaming disorder in ICD-11 follows the development of treatment programmes for people with health conditions identical to those characteristic of gaming disorder in many parts of the world, and will result in the increased attention of health professionals to the risks of development of this disorder and, accordingly, to relevant prevention and treatment measures.

Should all people who engage in gaming be concerned about developing gaming disorder?

Studies suggest that gaming disorder affects only a small proportion of people who engage in digital- or video-gaming activities.

However, people who partake in gaming should be alert to the amount of time they spend on gaming activities, particularly when it is to the exclusion of other daily activities, as well as to any changes in their physical or psychological health and social functioning that could be attributed to their pattern of gaming behaviour.

What makes us susceptible to burnout?

In this episode  of the Safety & Health Podcast, ‘Burnout, stress and being human’, Heather Beach is joined by Stacy Thomson to discuss burnout, perfectionism and how to deal with burnout as an individual, as management and as an organisation.

We provide an insight on how to tackle burnout and why mental health is such a taboo subject, particularly in the workplace.


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Nigel Dupree
Nigel Dupree
6 years ago

“Asthenopia” is already included in WHO ICD-10 although, you maybe more familiar, whether in denial or not, with the common layman’s terms of Computer Vision Syndrome (CVS) or Screen fatigue that the HSE, H&S Professionals along with employers continue in denial and omission to address regardless of it’s classification as a Global Pandemic. Whether that is simply because it is perceived to be a Mental Health issue, and therefore, someone else’s domain or, genuine ignorance of the condition or, that they have not been trained on risk assessing the hazards and/or mitigating the risks associated with the disease, I can… Read more »

6 years ago

What a load of rubbish.