For video game addicts, it might soon be “game over.”
In its latest revision to a disease classification manual, the World Health Organization said Monday that compulsively playing video games now qualifies as a new mental health condition. The statement confirmed the fears of many parents but led some critics to warn that it may risk stigmatizing young video players.
The U.N. health agency said classifying “Gaming Disorder” as a separate condition will “serve a public health purpose for countries to be better prepared to identify this issue.”
Dr. Shekhar Saxena, director of WHO’s department for mental health, said WHO accepted the proposal that Gaming Disorder should be listed as a new problem based on scientific evidence, in addition to “the need and the demand for treatment in many parts of the world.”
Dr. Joan Harvey, a spokeswoman for the British Psychological Society, said only a minority of gamers would be affected by the disorder and warned that the new designation might cause unnecessary concern among parents.
“People need to understand this doesn’t mean every child who spends hours in their room playing games is an addict, otherwise medics are going to be flooded with requests for help,” she said.
Others welcomed WHO’s new classification, saying it was critical to identify video game addicts quickly because they are usually teenagers or young adults who don’t seek help themselves.
“We come across parents who are distraught, not only because they’re seeing their child drop out of school, but because they’re seeing an entire family structure fall apart,” said Dr. Henrietta Bowden-Jones, a spokeswoman for behavioral addictions at Britain’s Royal College of Psychiatrists. She was not connected to WHO’s decision.