Central New York, Consumer, Health, Syracuse, Technology

People Skeptical of WHO’s Decision to Name Gaming Disorder a Mental Health Condition

People are split about the World Health Organization's decision to name gaming disorder as a mental health disorder. (c) Stefan Oliva 2018

By Stefan Oliva  Syracuse, NY (NCC News) – The World Health Organization (WHO) put gaming disorder on its most recent list of mental health disorders on Monday. WHO’s announcement sparked debate and raised questions about how it should be treated and whether or not the condition belongs on this list.

The WHO defines gaming disorder as “a pattern of gaming behavior (“digital-gaming” or “video-gaming”) characterized by impaired control over gaming, increasing priority given to gaming over other activities to the extent that gaming takes precedence over other interests and daily activities, and continuation or escalation of gaming despite the occurrence of negative consequences.” Meanwhile, medical experts are trying to pinpoint what exactly causes it.

“The general idea would be you’re not able to aggressively address the issues in your life,” said Dr. Brian Johnson, director of addiction medicine at Upstate Medical University. “You divert your attention and your time off in some other direction.”

Though gaming disorder has been internationally recognized, it is not as widespread as many may think. According to different studies, only between .3 percent and three percent of American gamers have experienced gaming disorder. It is more common in Asian countries like China and South Korea, where about 10 percent of gamers have gone through it.

In order to meet those qualifications, people had to have experienced negative effects on their social, educational, occupational and family lives.  And the person has to have experienced symptoms like this for at least a year.

Some say there might be an increased stigma after the WHO’s announcement, but others think gaming will continue as usual.

“I’ve been happy to see that gaming has been normalized and more understood as time has gone on,” said Mike Saltzman, owner of Voltage Games in Syracuse.

He also said the WHO report would not change many people’s minds about gaming. “Frankly, if you are one of those parents that does look at those guidances and read up a lot on mental disorders, your kid probably doesn’t have this problem,” Saltzman said, “because you’re probably on top of them and making sure they have a balanced diet of activities in the first place.”

If you want to find out more about gaming disorder, its symptoms and how to treat it, look at WebMD and the American Addiction Centers.