Gaming addiction set to be recognised as a mental health disorder

Those who play video games compulsively for long periods of time may be diagnosed with a mental health disorder.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) has for the first time, included “gaming disorder” in its list of mental health conditions in a draft of its 11th International Classification of Diseases guidelines, which will be published in 2018.

The WHO charactised a gaming disorder as a “pattern of persistent or recurrent gaming behaviour” both on or offline.

Notable traits include patients prioritising gaming over “life interests and daily activities and continuation or escalation of gaming despite the occurence of negative consequences”.

Patients must have shown symptoms for at least a year before diagnosis, although the guidance states that this is subject to change dependent on the severity of the case.

The guidelines form the basis for identification of health trends and statistics globally and are the international standard for reporting diseases and health conditions.

They are used by medical practitioners, including doctors and nurses in the 100 countries were WHO is recognised, to diagnose conditions and by researchers to categorize conditions.  The inclusion of a disorder can shape national healthcare budgets and insurance policies.

This means that in the future, treatment for gaming disorders could be funded by the National Health Service, although there is not yet any guidance drawn up on how to treat this particular condition.

“It’s very interesting to see that the WHO are adding Gaming Disorder as a mental health condition as of 2018,” a spokesman for UKAT told the Telegraph.

“What we have seen at UKAT already is a 300 per cent rise in the amount of admissions where gaming addiction is part of their reason for treatment since 2014.

It has treated 36 inpatients for gaming addiction since 2014.

“Use of the internet, computers, smartphones and other electronic devices has dramatically increased over recent decades,” said Gregory Hartl, a spokesman for the WHO.

“While the increase is associated with clear benefits to users, for example in real-time information exchange, health problems as a result of excessive use have also been documented.”

Mr Hartl added that in a number of countries, the problem has become a significant public health concern.

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