Extreme Gaming Has A New Clinical Diagnosis
Many people use video games as an escape – a chance to have fun, unwind and sidestep reality, but when does this pastime become a problem? Should excessive gaming be considered a health issue? The World Health Organization says yes.
In May, the WHO reclassified "gaming disorder" as a mental health condition, provoking strong reactions from the gaming community and mental health and addiction specialists.
Proponents believe that this classification will encourage more individuals to seek treatment. Opponents believe it was a rushed decision based more on stereotypes and less on evidence.
Three symptoms of gaming disorder as described by the WHO are:
- impaired control over gaming activities;
- increased priority given to gaming activities, and;
- an increase in gaming activities despite negative consequences.
This diagnosis is meant for extreme gamers with problematic behavior. Symptoms must be present for 12 months and impair other aspects of that person’s life.
Ninety-seven percent of teenage boys and 83 percent of teen girls play games on some kind of device, according to Pew.
Only a small percentage of gamers display symptoms. Even so, how does this classification affect the gaming community? Should parents be more concerned about their child’s gaming habits or is this just another demonization of video games?
Is a video game addiction akin to a substance addiction? What does treatment look like in a world where the technology is ubiquitous?
- Dr. Anthony Bean, clinical psychologist, video game researcher and executive director of The Telos Project
- Dr. Kelli Dunlap, doctor of psychology, game developer, and director of mental health research and design at iThrive games
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*This interview was recorded on Thursday, June 20.