David Poon, BSc. Immunology and Infection, PharmD Candidate
Just One More Game
I admit it. I’ve done it before. I’ve played video games for hours at a time. But does that make me a video game addict? Not necessarily. So, put down that hammer, step away from little Jimmy’s video game console or computer, and take a read through this article before deciding what to do next.
The World Health Organization is Including Gaming Disorder in the International Classification of Diseases (ICD-11)
You may have seen this headline in the news this past week and are probably wondering if you should be concerned about young Jimmy spending all his time playing video games. Let’s start by breaking down what ICD-11 actually is.1 ICD codes are simply a common language healthcare professionals and health insurance companies use to specify a certain injury, disease, or cause of death. The 11 refers to it being the 11th revision to ICD codes.
Classification of Gaming Disorder.
The recent WHO announcement including gaming disorder in the ICD-11 codes shouldn’t come as a huge surprise. Back in 2015, the American Psychiatric Association published Internet Gaming Disorder in their Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5), which is commonly used by healthcare professionals to help diagnose mental health conditions. Although further studies are needed, the authors found similarities between internet gaming disorder and other addictions.2 If you substitute the word “playing/gaming” with “gambling” or “alcohol” you might find similarities between them.
- Preoccupation with playing
- Withdrawal symptoms when not playing
- Unsuccessful attempts to reduce or stop playing
- Gives up other activities to play
- Continues to play despite problems caused by it
- Lies about or covers up playing
- Plays to escape bad moods
- Risks losing or loses relationships or career opportunities because of excessive playing
Similarly, the WHO classifies gaming disorder as the following:
“Gaming disorder is characterized by a pattern of persistent or recurrent gaming behaviour…, which may be online… or offline, manifested by: 1) impaired control over gaming…; 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…”3,4
This is a lot of medical jargon – so what is the WHO trying to tell us? Let’s bring back little Jimmy and use him as an example. If Jimmy is spending every possible moment gaming, to the point where he loses interest in swimming, his grades are suffering, his relationships with family and friends at school are deteriorating, and all of this has been going on for at least 1 year, then he might have gaming disorder. However, at this point, I must stress that only a trained medical provider may diagnose someone with gaming disorder. You and I aren’t qualified to say if Jimmy has gaming disorder.
Whether gaming disorder should be classified as a mental health problem is up for debate, but there are other considerations that should be taken into account. A study in Barcelona, Spain showed some interesting findings on those diagnosed with internet gaming disorder.5 They found that those with gaming disorder were more introverted, concerned with their identity, valued themselves less as an individual, and were more insecure in their relationships with others. Overall, they were more anxious, apprehensive and expected life to be more of a pain than a joy, leading to social isolation. It becomes clear that these pathological gamers are at risk of other mental health conditions, such as depression, anxiety and social phobia. I’m not suggesting that everyone who has gaming disorder will also have these other mental health problems, but it opens up room for discussion. Usually, there are underlying causes as to why someone becomes so invested in an alternate reality – a game. Perhaps, it’s an escape to a universe where they feel comfortable and accepted – or maybe it’s a cry for help.
What Can You Do?
As a parent or guardian, if you notice that your child spends an awful lot of time playing games, this may raise some alarms. First, it’s important to recognize that we’re living in a digital age. Media is constantly being consumed through various technologies, whether it’s on the computer, gaming console, iPad or smartphone. This is likely the way of the future. So what can you do about it? The best thing to do is to modify their behaviour and the amount of time spent on these devices. This is the time to sit down and talk about your concerns, rather than simply telling your child to “get off the computer because it’s late now.” Set rules early on as to how much screen time they can have and set clear consequences if they disobey those rules. Mac and Windows computers have parental control features that allow you to control how much time your child can spend on the computer. As for iPhones and iPads, this feature is coming soon to iOS 12, which will be released this fall. If your child has an Android phone, check out Family Link.
There is no wonder pill that will cure someone from gaming disorder. A proactive approach of open communication with your child, a clear set of rules and parental control features are only some of the ways to prevent gaming disorder. If you suspect someone is at risk or may have gaming disorder, speak to your family physician or another qualified healthcare professional.
We hope you took away something valuable from this piece. If you have any questions or concerns regarding this article or others, feel free to reach out to us on Instagram, Facebook, or at firstname.lastname@example.org with your feedback. We’d love to hear from you.
- WHO releases new International Classification of Diseases (ICD 11). (n.d.). Retrieved from http://www.who.int/news-room/detail/18-06-2018-who-releases-new-international-classification-of-diseases-(icd-11)
- Petry, N. M., Rehbein, F., Ko, C., & O’Brien, C. P. (2015). Internet Gaming Disorder in the DSM-5. Current Psychiatry Reports,17(9). doi:10.1007/s11920-015-0610-0
- Gaming disorder. (2018, March 14). Retrieved from http://www.who.int/features/qa/gaming-disorder/en/
- 6C51 Gaming disorder. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://icd.who.int/browse11/l-m/en#/http://id.who.int/icd/entity/1448597234
- González-Bueso, V., Santamaría, J. J., Fernández, D., Merino, L., Montero, E., Jiménez-Murcia, S., . . . Ribas, J. (2018). Internet Gaming Disorder in Adolescents: Personality, Psychopathology and Evaluation of a Psychological Intervention Combined With Parent Psychoeducation. Frontiers in Psychology,1-15. doi:10.3389/fpsyg.2018.00787
- WHO: Gaming disorder: Questions and answers (Q&A). (2018, January 11). Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lJ71KAO0mtc
- Scutti, S. (2018, June 18). WHO says ‘gaming disorder’ is a mental health condition. Retrieved from https://www.cnn.com/2018/06/18/health/video-game-disorder-who/index.html