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World Health Organization officially classifies video game addiction as a mental disorder

By Christian Long
Red Dead Redemption 2

Addiction to video games will soon be classified as an official mental disorder, courtesy of the World Health Organization.

Falling under the same umbrella as gambling addiction, "Gaming Disorder" was added to the International Statistical Classification of Diseases and Related Health Problems. Better known as ICD-11, the classification serves as the international standard for diagnosing health-related issues. According to USA Todaythe updated list will go into effect starting January 2022.

The WHO's official diagnosis (which you can read here) lists symptoms like giving games increased priority and escalation of play despite any potential negative consequences. The organization first added "Gaming Disorder" to its ICD-11 beta list back in 2017, having looked at research on the topic as far back as 1990. However, not everyone agrees with the WHO's most recent assessment.

Last June, the American Psychological Association stated that there wasn't "sufficient evidence to determine whether the condition is a unique mental disorder." Similarly, a team of researchers published a paper last year that also cited a lack of conclusive scientific evidence on the matter. One of the authors, Isabela Granic, took to Twitter to reiterate why the disorder "should not be diagnosable."

Shekhar Saxena, the WHO's mental health and substance abuse expert, defended the decision to Reuters. While he said that "Gaming Disorder" was "an occasional or transitory behavior," he believes it necessary for mental health professionals to help spot possible early warning signs.

In addition to the lack of scientific consensus on the matter, video game groups aren't terribly happy with the decision, either. Both the Entertainment Software Association and UK Interactive Association have asked the WHO to rethink their decision, claiming it's "not based on sufficiently robust evidence to justify its inclusion in one of the WHO’s most important norm-setting tools."

At this point, it's unclear how, or whether, any of this blowback will impact the WHO's decision before it goes into effect two and a half years from now. What do you think, can gaming be addictive?