Game Over? World Health Organization Weighs in on Video Game Addiction

Premier Health Now

As video game technology has evolved, its realistic graphics and complex story lines provide an entertaining diversion for the millions who enjoy it. However, gaming’s popularity has also drawn many even deeper into a virtual universe they might find increasingly difficult to leave.

As Premier Health Now shared this past January, the World Health Organization was planning to classify “gaming disorder” as an official mental health condition. They recently made that change.

We spoke again with neuropsychologist Fadi Tayim, PhD, of the Clinical Neuroscience Institute to learn more about WHO’s decision, as well as the steps that might be taken to help patients and their families deal with this issue.

Leveling Up the Standard of Care

“The future of health care is becoming more individualized,” said Dr. Tayim. “So when we see a patient who’s having difficulty understanding the limits of what’s appropriate in terms of gaming, we can look at the World Health Organization’s standards as a guide to help address it.”

The new standards emphasize three unique characteristics to help professionals accurately diagnose a gaming disorder. The first describes when a person’s gaming habit takes a higher priority over other activities they used to enjoy. The second focuses upon anindividual’s persistent inability to stop gaming despite negative consequences. The third refers to a habit that begins to have a major impact upon a person’s social, mental, physical and occupational well-being.

It should be noted that a disorder isn’t officially diagnosed unless these characteristics have been displayed for up to a year. However, Dr. Tayim said that a person can still benefit from asking some important questions to possibly change their own behaviors.

“Are you spending more time playing video games than doing your homework?” asks Dr. Tayim. “Are you isolating yourself from your friends instead of doing other activities? If you’re an adult who wants to spend more time in this immersive environment than in the real world, it could be problematic if you aren’t keeping up with things like bills or other social and family obligations.”