World Health Organization Recognizes Gaming Disorder as an Addiction

World Health Organization Recognizes Gaming

As of June 18, 2018, the World Health Organization (WHO) has determined that gaming disorder will be included on the organization’s International Classification of Diseases.

The idea that spending hours playing games on the computer can turn into an addiction is difficult for many people to accept. However, most addiction professionals agree that gaming addiction can ruin lives, and that recognition of gaming disorder as a disease will make it easier for people to receive much-needed treatment.

Is Gaming Disorder Really a Disease?

For several decades, it has been widely accepted that addiction is a chronic, relapsing disease that triggers very real changes in the brain, thus causing compulsive substance use.

In recent years, the idea of certain behaviors as addictive has gained acceptance because the brain reacts to behaviors much the same way it responds to drugs and alcohol. Most members of the scientific community agree that addiction isn’t dependent on a substance, but has more to do with release of chemicals in the areas of the brain that govern motivation and reward.

Gamers can become dependent to the point that the behavior interferes with their lives. Cravings to repeat the behavior can be so strong that some people experience withdrawal symptoms not unlike those associated with withdrawal from drugs and alcohol.

The Concerns

Some experts are concerned about use of the term “addiction,” when it comes to gaming, because many gamers are children and teens. They reason that playing computer games doesn’t always result in addiction, and that many kids are able to enjoy gaming without negative consequences.

In fact, learning specialists advise that computer games are not only fun, but can be positive learning tools. There is concern that parents may overreact, taking games away and prompting kids to turn to more dangerous activities, including drug and alcohol use.

Signs of Gaming Addiction

  • Insomnia and other sleep problems
  • Playing games late into the night (or all night)
  • Spending significant amounts of money on games or computer upgrades
  • Significant mood swings
  • Poor eating habits
  • Anger, frustration, restlessness or depression when gaming is denied
  • Lying about time spent playing games
  • Problems with academic performance
  • Skipping meals
  • Avoiding time with family and friends
  • Preoccupation with the next gaming session
  • Bleary eyes, eye strain
  • Fatigue
  • Tendonitis or carpal tunnel syndrome
  • Headaches, stiff neck
  • Neglect of personal hygiene
  • Feelings of extreme pleasure and euphoria while playing games
  • Difficulty when attempting to abstain from gaming
  • Feelings of regret or guilt for time involved in gaming
  • Loss of interest in sports, hobbies, or other activities previously enjoyed

Treatment for Gaming Addiction

An increasing number of drug and alcohol treatment centers and rehabs now offer treatment for behavioral addictions, including gaming.

Treatment for a gaming addiction is very similar to treatment for other addictions and involves individual counseling with skilled therapists. Many rehabs also offer group treatment with other gamers. Family therapy is important, especially for youth and adolescents.

Frequently, treatment also addresses anxiety, depression and anger management, as well as relapse prevention and strategies for coping with stress.

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