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Gaming Disorder Classified as a Mental Health Condition.

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The World Health Organisation is to soon classify compulsive gaming as a mental health disorder in The International Classification of Disease diagnostic manual.  The manual will outline the criteria needed to determine whether someone can be classed as having a gaming disorder.

The recognition of the disorder by the WHO highlights the need for those working in mental health to ensure that their knowledge and understanding of mental health conditions is up to date and that they remain open minded and vigilant as to potential conditions which may cause harm to individuals so as to avoid unnecessary and potentially dangerous delays in diagnosing and treating individuals.

Vladimir Poznyak, a member of the WHO’s Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse, has been quoted as saying:

“Health professionals need to recognise that a gaming disorder may have serious health consequences.  Most people who play video games don’t have a disorder, just like most people who drink alcohol don’t have a disorder either. However, in certain circumstances overuse can lead to adverse effects.”

A recent study undertaken by the University of Oxford’s Internet Institute surveyed 19,000 men and women from the UK, USA, Germany and Canada.  Over half of the sample said they had played internet games recently. Of these, between 1% and 0.5% said that had experienced feelings of ‘significant distress’ in being unable to curb their play.

All the study participants completed symptom and health checklists. To be identified as a possible gaming addict, they had to report symptoms such as:

  • Preoccupation with internet gaming
  • Anxiety and other withdrawal symptoms (if the game was taken away)
  • Increasing amounts of time spent gaming
  • Loss of control
  • Reduced interests
  • Social withdrawal
  • Losing opportunities as a result of gaming.

The classification of mental health disorders is an ever changing and fluid issue.  There may be many of us who suffer from a genuine mental health disorder which is not commonly recognised by a GP or other health professional.  As a result access to care and treatment may be delayed or even withheld which can have disastrous consequences for the individual concerned and put pressure on family member’s involved in their care. It can be a frustrating, stressful and confusing situation for patients and family alike.

Health professionals are under a duty of care to diagnose recognised mental health conditions in good time and provide access to appropriate care and treatment.  Recent press coverage of mental health issues suggests that accessing effective treatment can be difficult. It remains to be seen how well the NHS will react to this new classification.

Link to the full University of Oxford study: