The World Health Organisation (WHO) has recently announced that a gaming related disorder has been included in the most recent version of the International Classification of Diseases also known as ICD-11
The announcement is being covered in some depth by the BBC and you can find more information about the decision and reaction here
I have mixed feelings about this. As someone who suffers from anxiety and OCD, I frequently get comments such as “well everyone worries sometimes” or “well, it’s just common sense to check all the windows and doors before going to bed at night” Whilst I agree with both of these in principle, worrying and checking things doesn’t generally impact negatively on peoples lives and this in my opinion is the best way to differentiate between a relatively normal Human behavior and a disorder.
Taking the first example of checking things at night before going to bed; prior to going to CBT I had built up a night time routine of checking doors, windows, taps, the gas hob, that everything was unplugged, taking everything of value upstairs with me, that there was nothing left on the floor that my wife might trip over and hurt herself. There were certain things I had to do in a very specific way such as checking the gas hobs were turned off. If I didn’t release the dials in a particular way I would need to check again. I was particularly obsessed with checking the doors to the point where we have had to have the lock and handle replaced at least once due to my constant checking. Generally speaking, I had to allow around 20 – 25 minutes before going to bed to start my routine. I would also frequently have to get out of bed to go and re-check things or return home if it was in an instance where I was going out somewhere.
In the case of gaming, I used to be in a gaming clan many years ago which is where I met many of my close friends. I don’t play games so often any more but many of my friends still do whenever they can. Many of them now have families and other life commitments but still spend as much time as they can gaming. I don’t consider this as being a mental health disorder, just being very enthusiastic about a hobby.
That being said, I have a friend who whilst doing his University degree got really into an online game which was particularly popular in countries in a different time zone and this meant he was spending all night playing and missing lectures during the day. As a result he failed his degree and had to repeat his final year. I would consider this to be a mental health issue as it actually had a negative impact on his life.
A more extreme example is the growing incidence of deaths due to prolonged gaming sessions such as this example from 2015 which is only one of many similar cases. There have also been cases of murders related to online gaming disputes. To be honest I think these individuals have more than a “gaming addiction disorder”!
I’m really glad to see that many medical experts in the field of mental health have raised concerns over this decision, feeling it is premature and that much more research needs to be done. Dr Etchells from Bath Spa University was quoted as saying:
We’re essentially pathologising a hobby, so what’s next? There are studies on tanning addiction, dance addiction, exercise addiction, but nobody is having a conversation about including them in ICD 11…
I agree and feel like there needs to be much more research and clearer definition on when gaming is becoming a problem. One of my concerns is that this could create a number of issues:
- Causing anxiety by making people believe they have a disorder when they don’t
- Tying up mental health services that are already incredibly overstretched as a result of misdiagnosis meaning that genuine sufferers are not being treated
- More and more normal behaviors being classified as mental health disorders and further blurring the lines between what is normal and a problem