The World Health Organization (WHO) Assembly in Geneva officially recognized gaming addiction as a mental disorder. Experts in the gaming industry and medics discuss whether to consider gaming addiction as a disease and how to treat it, while developers offer mental health startup. We’re figuring out what’s going on.
In 2019, the WHO added gambling addiction to the mental disorders section of the revised International Classification of Diseases (ICD). The change didn’t take effect until 2022.
If we talk about gaming addiction, of course, the WHO does not call to consider all gamers as addicted. According to experts, it manifests itself in three main symptoms:
- -Disruption of control – duration of gaming sessions, frequency, intensity;
- -Games begin to prevail over other life and daily interests;
- -The gamer cannot stop despite the negative consequences.
“The pattern of behavior is serious enough that it leads to significant deterioration in personal, family, social, educational, occupational and other important areas of life,” the WHO explained. Addiction can be diagnosed within 12 months, but the period can also be shortened if the symptoms are serious.
The international community of video game developers and publishers opposed the recognition of gambling addiction as a mental disorder. A letter to WHO last year was signed by eight associations: these game associations in the United States, Canada, South Africa, Australia, South Korea and Brazil, as well as European associations ISFE and EGDF. The authors of the letter remind that the audience of video games exceeds two billion people and video games do not harm them. On the contrary, games contribute to learning and recreation, the letter says. The arguments for including gaming addiction in the international list of diseases are, in their view, controversial and unconvincing. In its own statement another U.S. game association ESA says the risk of a false diagnosis of “game addiction. That is, the problem may not be due to the games as such, but already recognized types of mental disorders – depression, anxiety and so on.
According to various studies, gaming addiction affects from 2% to 10% of Internet users in the world. In 2017, the British newspaper Independent, citing a study by the Oxford University Internet Institute, wrote about an attempt by scientists to identify the percentage of players with a painful addiction. Two to three percent of the 19,000 respondents surveyed in Britain, Germany, Canada and the United States found more than five symptoms described in the American Psychiatric Association’s testimony. Among these, for example, were anxiety and antisocial behavior.
The previous version, ICD-10, had been in effect since 1990, and things have changed a lot since then. ICD-11 lists about 55,000 diseases, symptoms and circumstances affecting health. The previous version had 14,400.
Medics: Gambling addiction is a consequence
Although experts argue about whether WHO recognizes gambling addiction as a mental disorder, they unequivocally agree that the excessive enthusiasm for games is the consequence of a number of other, more serious personality problems.
The treatment of such an addiction, the doctor explains, must be associated with the concept of internal relations to himself and others. That is, if a person has formed a hedonistic attitude (installation on getting pleasure), then behavioral programs and trainings will not help him.
If a person has a dream of some kind, a life plan, a goal he strives for and achieves, the rehabilitation process is quicker, easier and more effective. If the person does not have an inner personal concept, it is very difficult to rehabilitate such a patient. He reasons like this: If you take away my game addiction that fills my inner content, what should I do next in this life? The rehabilitative approach is based on giving the person an idea for which he should recover. The rest will go automatically, it’s a platform.
A person who uses drugs is treated the same way. People with addictions have an underlying anxiety that is natural to a normal person, and the dose helps to drown it out, but does not solve the problem. Once the motivation is formed, it is a matter of technology to get rid of the physical addiction.