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Video game disorder: a new mental disorder according to WHO

Video game disorder: a new mental disorder according to WHO

March 17, 2023

Our behavior evolves at the same time as our culture and our society evolves, therefore it is not absurd to think that the root of these changes appear new disorders or related psychological alterations. This is the case of video game disorder.

A few decades ago it was almost impossible to think that a video game could lead to a psychological disorder . However, the growing proliferation of video games and their accessibility have caused WHO itself to consider whether this can be a problem for the mental and physical health of people.

  • Related article: "Eight important psychological aspects in video games"

Is video game disorder a new condition?

Last December the WHO released a new psychological condition very related to the times: video game disorder.

The real existence of this condition, which will be included next July in the new edition of the International Classification of Diseases (ICD-11), has been widely debated within research circles; This being one of the first steps taken by the organization when considering the possibility that an abuse of video games can generate addictions or psychological alterations.

After years of research, since the WHO has been working with groups of experts in this field since 2005, the organization has found it necessary to make a decision on this matter, since Addiction or problems related to the abuse of video games they are increasingly recurrent in psychology consultations.

WHO has reported that, although it is still early to reveal fully reliable epidemiological data, it is estimated that the number of people affected by this disorder ranges from 1 to 10% of the general adult population.

Likewise, it has been specified that although this is a disorder much more linked to the younger population, this is not an exclusionary criterion, so for the moment it will be equally considered for all age groups.

Although WHO itself admits that most of the population that considers itself a habitual player does not suffer any type of disorder , it is recommended that these people have under control the time they dedicate to this hobby, since the excessive use of these games can cause adverse effects such as the abandonment of obligations and daily activities or alterations in both physical and psychological health.

In the same way, professionals from different fields of health are also encouraged to observe and admit the possible consequences that video game abuse can have on the health of children and adults.

  • Related article: "Addiction to videogames: symptoms, causes and treatment"

What features does it have?

Due to the fact that it is a very recent disorder that is still under investigation, the representatives of the WHO have revealed that, for the moment, videogame disorder will not have its own epigraph in the next edition of the ICD-11, but this will be located within the diagnostics related to digital games .

Therefore, although a definitive definition has not been established, a series of characteristics and behavioral patterns of this disorder have been described.

Video game disorder is defined as a pattern of behavior characterized by a lack of control over the need to play , giving more and more priority to the time spent playing video games that other activities and interests that were previously important for the person.

This behavior is defined by being continuous or recurrent, having observed an escalation of time that is invested in video games despite the negative consequences of these. That is, the person continues to play despite the harmful effects that it causes.

In order to avoid overdiagnosis of this disorder, the WHO warns that, to be considered as such, This pattern of behavior must interfere significantly in the other areas of the person's life . Therefore, contexts such as labor, education, family or social should be highly affected.

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What will be the diagnostic criteria?

In order for abnormal behavior related to the use and abuse of video games to be considered as a disorder or disease, the following three criteria must be met.

In the same way, so that the diagnosis of video game disorder can be made, the problem must be evidenced, at least, during a period of 12 months . However, WHO warns that in very serious cases the time may be much shorter.

The three criteria to take into account when diagnosing video game disorder are the following.

1. Lack of control

The first of the three criteria is one that stipulates that the person must be Unable to exercise voluntary control over his behavior in relation to videogames . This symptom also includes the inability to limit and control the amount of time spent playing.

2. Priority to the game

During the period in which the disorder develops, the person increases the level of priority given to the game. Locating the time that is invested in playing ahead of the rest of obligations of the person.

3. Escalation of behavior

Finally, the third criterion provides that the person affected by the video game disorder must experience a scale in his behavior, which will continue to be carried out despite the harmful effects that this has on his health condition. Regardless of the damage it implies, the patient will continue with his behavior or he will even increase it .

Has a treatment been defined?

In spite of everything described above, the next volume of the ICD-11 in which this disorder is already does not establish any guidelines for prevention or treatment , so it does not offer any kind of recommendation for family members, professionals or institutions.

However, the WHO emphasizes that the introduction of this disorder is the first step for organizations and professionals to consider when designing resources and means for the prevention, treatment and rehabilitation of this disorder.

Critics to its introduction in the ICD-11

As expected, the decision of the WHO I have not got rid of the criticisms of some specialists who consider that the generation of a specific label for this behavior pattern is excessive.

Some sectors argue that, although it is a behavior that must be taken into account, its introduction in a diagnostic manual can create confusion among professionals and family members of people who are only video game enthusiasts.

Another example is a study carried out at the University of Oxford in which it is established that, although children invest a lot of time playing video games, in most cases they are able to combine this hobby with the rest of his activities or obligations without any aspect of his life being harmed.

Video games as mental-health hazards (March 2023).

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