It is official. Gaming disorder is, well, a disease, according to a new classification by the World Health Organisation.

In the latest revision to the International Classification of Disease (ICD11), WHO says compulsively playing video games now qualifies as a mental health condition—one known as “gaming disorder”, with code 6C51.

According to ICD11, the condition is characterised by a pattern of “persistent or recurrent gaming behaviour”—of digital or video game—primarily on the internet.

It is manifested by:

  • impaired control over gaming (e.g., onset, frequency, intensity, duration, termination, context);
  • increasing priority given to gaming to the extent that gaming takes precedence over other life interests and daily activities; and
  • continuation or escalation of gaming despite the occurrence of negative consequences.

It is the first time the classification will include “gaming disorder”.  Its last revision 18 years ago—the ICD10—included “gambling disorder, especially offline.

Now the inclusion of online gaming updates the classification for 21st-century problems and realities of mental health disorders.

It is the result of “very clear, scientific evidence that it has characteristic signs and symptoms and there is need and demand for treatment from many regions of the world,” says Dr. Shekhar Saxena, director of WHO’s department for mental health and substance abuse.

Only a minority of people who game will satisfy the strict criteria for gaming order, but having signs and symptoms clearly spelt out will aid diagnosis.

“That’s why it has been inserted, and obviously this will help people to become more aware about this entity and also seek and get treatment.”

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