The 11th revision of the International Classification of Diseases (ICD), published by the World Health Organization, will officially classify gaming addiction as a medical disorder, for the first time. This is a landmark moment, confirming the validity and necessity of measures taken by governments and Internet companies worldwide to control the amount of time youth spend gaming.
The upcoming edition of the ICD will be the first revision in 16 years. Much has changed since 1992, and evidently excessive gaming can now be thought of as a medical issue. The 2013 edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM), listed the internet gaming disorder as a “condition for further study”. WHO professionals have seen enough cases of this disorder to now confirm its status as a serious health threat.
In order for a gamer to be diagnosed with gaming addiction, several factors have to occur, and writers of the new ICD advocate flexibility and caution in placing this diagnostic. Among key signs is an inability to control the length, frequency and intensity of gaming sessions. Allowing gaming to take precedence over most, if not all other activities is another important factor during diagnosis. As in the case of most addicts, doctors will assess the inability or unwillingness to moderate the amount of gaming, in spite of harmful consequences. The ICD will recommend a 12 month period of observation before applying the diagnostic, with the caveat that severe symptoms allow for swifter action.
Gaming addiction has become a growing concern, especially when it comes to boys aged 8 to 18. Many states have passed legislation attempting to regulate the amount of gaming that youth may partake in. For example, in South Korea it has recently become illegal to engage in online gaming between 00:00 and 06:00, if under 16 years of age. Of course, South Korea is known as a hub for extremely high-level competitive and professional online gaming, with teams dominating E-Sports events worldwide.
It is important to note that doctors are not claiming this condition applies to anyone enthusiastic about gaming. Most children can prioritize their time well enough, and research suggests that gaming addiction is nowhere near as prevalent as the general perception in society would have us believe. The new ICD classification will simply allow for better medical response to those persons whose ability to prioritize is severely impaired.