The World Health Organization has announced that “gaming disorder” will be added to the 11th edition of its International Classification of Diseases (ICD-11). The change is particularly significant given the fact that updates to the ICD don’t happen often. The last one, ICD-10, dates back to the 1990s.
The WHO has apparently been moving towards the classification of gaming disorder as a mental condition for the last few months, though some medical professionals remain concerned that this classification doesn’t have enough existing research to support it. This is globally significant, as doctors, scientists, and other agencies use these classifications to make decisions pertaining to healthcare, in both research and practice.
Here’s the World Health Organization’s classification of gaming disorder, as listed in the final draft of the ICD-11:
Gaming disorder is characterized by a pattern of persistent or recurrent gaming behaviour (‘digital gaming’ or ‘video-gaming’), which may be online (i.e., over the internet) or offline, manifested by: 1) impaired control over gaming (e.g., onset, frequency, intensity, duration, termination, context); 2) increasing priority given to gaming to the extent that gaming takes precedence over other life interests and daily activities; and 3) continuation or escalation of gaming despite the occurrence of negative consequences. The behaviour pattern is of sufficient severity to result in significant impairment in personal, family, social, educational, occupational or other important areas of functioning. The pattern of gaming behaviour may be continuous or episodic and recurrent. The gaming behaviour and other features are normally evident over a period of at least 12 months in order for a diagnosis to be assigned, although the required duration may be shortened if all diagnostic requirements are met and symptoms are severe.
Part of the World Health Organization’s reasoning for the classification was to encourage further research on the subject, which it recognizes needs further attention; the WHO aims to increase knowledge of this particular area. However, this was also used as a reason for opposition when a number of organizations moved to dispute the WHO’s classification earlier this year, as reported by the Entertainment Software Association (ESA). Mental health experts from Oxford University, Johns Hopkins University, and Stockholm University—among others—voiced objections because “robust scientific standards” had not yet been employed, and “formalizing a disorder with the intention to improve research quality neglects the wider non-clinical societal context.”
Despite this, the World Health Organization will be presenting the latest draft of ICD-11 to the World Health Assembly in May 2019. After that, the ICD-11 will go into full effect in 2022.