Gaming Disorder: Confirmed by the World Health Organization

world health organization gaming disorder logo The World Health Organization has confirmed Gaming Disorder in the eleventh revision of the International Classification of Diseases (ICD-11), to come into effect January 1st, 2022. 1 1. WHO: Gaming Disorder ×

This is a victory for people who struggle with gaming disorder, and improves their ability to receive affordable quality care.

What is Gaming Disorder?

Gaming Disorder is defined “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.”

The World Health Organization stated their decision to include gaming disorder was “based on reviews of available evidence and reflects a consensus of experts from different disciplines and geographical regions” and that “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.”

This Decision Helps Gaming Addicts:

This decision will have positive benefits for video game addicts. Here are five of them:

  1. Improved accessibility to professional services, including the potential for services to be covered by insurance. More professionals will specialize in gaming disorder.
  2. Improved quality control. Currently there is no standard protocol for mental health professionals to follow for prevention and treatment of gaming disorder. Quality care begins with an official diagnosis and means of assessment.
  3. Reduced stigma and moral panic. Research shows stigma – the fear of being judged, dismissed, or misunderstood – to be the biggest barrier to gaming addicts seeking help.

gaming disorder stigma

By confirming gaming disorder, WHO has validated the experiences of gaming addicts around the world. This encourages them to seek professional support, and reassure them that their concerns will not be dismissed when they do. Professionals will be better trained on how to assess and treat this issue.

This decision is also good for healthy gamers. No longer is it possible to suggest that someone has a video game addiction based on your own subjective reasoning. Instead, we have a diagnostic criteria rooted in evidence. Those concerned about someone’s gaming can trust a professional assessment.

Finally, this decision encourages researchers and mental health professionals to divert resources stuck in the debate about whether video game addiction is “real” or not, and instead invest them in finding effective treatment protocols, prevention models, comorbidity factors, and more.

To recognize gaming disorder is not to take any legitimacy away from other mental health conditions. It only furthers the important message that if you are someone who is struggling, seek help. And when you do, we will have the best evidence-based support available.

My Personal Gaming Addiction

This decision has been a long-time coming. I began sharing my story about gaming addiction 7 years ago, and for the most part, I was speaking into a void. It was a lonely road at times, but one where I constantly heard from thousands of fellow gaming addicts around the world that my work mattered and was helpful to them.

Today I’m so proud to share this victory with you all. It’s an important milestone, and one I know will help so many people around the world.

This decision doesn’t change our work at all. I will continue to wake up every day and fight for the rights of gaming addicts worldwide. I will continue to use my voice and platform to share their stories, and use my gifts to improve the quality of care.

Thank you to those who have believed in me and supported our efforts over the last 7 years.

– Cam Adair
Founder of Game Quitters