“They’re seeing an entire family structure fall apart”

ByPaul Bois

The World Health Organization (WHO) has issued a warning to gamers: stop playing so much or become like a crack addict.

According to Medical Express, the WHO said in its latest disease classification manual that compulsive video gaming to the point addiction should classify as a mental health condition. The agency reasoned that classifying a “gaming disorder” will help governments, mental health practitioners, and families identify and deal with the problem adequately. The agency admits, however, that few suffer from the condition; only 3% of gamers would classify as being psychologically addicted.

Dr. Shekhar Saxena, director of WHO’s department for mental health and substance abuse, said scientific evidence confirms video game addiction as a disorder and requires “treatment in many parts of the world.”

Be not alarmed, gamers, says Dr. Joan Harvey, a spokeswoman for the British Psychological Society, who warned people not to become extremely cautious as a result of the study.

“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,” said Dr. Harvey.

Many health practitioners agreed that video gamers should not overly concerned while still celebrating the classification.

“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.

The American Psychiatric Association has made no such classification. In 2013, the association referred to video game addiction as “a condition warranting more clinical research and experience before it might be considered for inclusion.”

Most of the studies surrounding video game addiction focus on men in Asia. Earlier this year, a Chinese gamer literally fell paralyzed after playing video games for 20 hours straight. Just last year, a 21-year-old woman in China became blind in one eye after playing on her mobile phone a full 24 hours.

“The studies suggest that when these individuals are engrossed in Internet games, certain pathways in their brains are triggered in the same direct and intense way that a drug addict’s brain is affected by a particular substance,” the association said in that statement. “The gaming prompts a neurological response that influences feelings of pleasure and reward, and the result, in the extreme, is manifested as addictive behavior.”

Dr. Mark Griffiths said the classification will help legitimize the practice of treating video game addiction.

“Video gaming is like a non-financial kind of gambling from a psychological point of view,” said Griffiths. “Gamblers use money as a way of keeping score whereas gamers use points.”