The World Health Organization Labels Gaming Addictions as a Mental Disorder

When one thinks of mental disorders, a video game addiction isn’t generally the first thing to come to mind. We generally reserve that label for serious issues that cause serious problems. But then again, addiction is a serious issue, no matter what it is that you might be addicted to. Even something as seemingly harmless as video games.

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According to WHO’s International Classification of Diseases, video game addiction is labeled as “a pattern of persistent or recurrent gaming behavior” that becomes so prevalent that it ultimately “takes precedence over other life interests”. To be fair to video games, this is exactly how you would describe any addiction to any one thing. Whether it’s alcohol, drugs, or even recreational activities, all addictions result in that thing taking precedence over ordinary life.

So no, WHO is not giving ammo to parents that are irritable over their children liking video games or wanting to play them after they’re done with homework. In fact, WHO’s expert on substance abuse and mental health likened video game ‘addiction’ to only the very worst cases; individuals that would play video games for nearly twenty hours in a day, ignoring things like school or work, or even bodily necessities like sleep and food.

As one might imagine, this kind of hardcore gaming addiction is extremely rare and develops in a very small number of people. It certainly poses much less of an addiction threat than smoking, drinking, or drugs, so just because WHO has labeled it as a mental disorder and a potential problem doesn’t necessarily mean they’re calling out video games as a whole or demanding a call to action. They’re only saying that people should be on the lookout for warning signs with their loved ones.

This also makes the response of the Video Game Coalition, an industry lobby group, a bit silly. They’re urging the World Health Organization to reconsider their decision, based on the fact that video games are widely enjoyed around the world and that they offer many emotional and therapeutic benefits. This, however, just goes to show that they don’t really understand what WHO is saying, just like any adult that would use this as an excuse to completely nix video games from their children’s lives.

WHO is not at all saying that video games are inherently bad and that they should be avoided at all costs. Only that being addicted to video games is a serious concern, as is an addiction to literally anything at all. No matter what’s in question, if you allow it to monopolize your life, it’s a problem. If you are so focused on playing video games that it takes priority over school, work, eating, sleeping, or just living life in general, then yes, there’s a serious problem that needs to be addressed, and WHO is right in stating that.

As long as video games are a normal, balanced part of your life, even if it is the only recreation you partake in, then nothing is wrong at all, and no one can tell you otherwise.