Is ‘Gaming Disorder’ an illness? ‘WHO’ says yes it’s a recognized addiction

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They are popular. They are controversial. And now, video games have just become an internationally recognized addiction.

The World Health Organization officially voted to adopt the latest edition of its International Classification of Diseases, or ICD, to include an entry on “gaming disorder” as a behavioral addiction.

For gaming disorder to be diagnosed, says the WHO, the behavior pattern must be “of sufficient severity to result in significant impairment in personal, family, social, educational, occupational or other important areas of functioning.”

However, the WHO’s decision to adopt gaming disorder as an official disease has been met with strong opposition by the global games industry. A statement signed by trade bodies from the UK, Europe, United States, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, South Korea, South Africa and Brazil called on the WHO to ‘rethink’ the decision.

“Gaming disorder is not based on sufficiently robust evidence to justify inclusion in one of the WHO’s most important norm-setting tools,” said the statement. “We are concerned they reached their conclusion without the consensus of the academic community. The consequences of today’s action could be far-reaching, unintended, and to the detriment of those in need of genuine help.”

Doctor Andrew Wynn, a former competitive gamer is the co-founder and lead counselor at Rise Gaming Recovery.

A San Diego based facility dedicated to changing the lives of gaming addicts.

Dr. Wynn says, ”It becomes all that you know. It becomes your identity and what your good at.”

Doctor Wynn adds the unpredictability of rewards in video games, not only releases large amounts of dopamine in the brain, creating a euphoric feeling that the body then craves.

But it goes much deeper, there is a community aspect to these games and the sense of belonging. 

It becomes their social identity,” said Dr. Wynn. “You can have a whole community of friends, who maybe are closer than their family overtime, all online. You have no reason to go outside or join an interest group.”

But others disagree.

“I personally don’t think there is a video game addiction. I think it can be compared to scrimmaging for sports in real life,” said Junior Ferreria, owner of Knockout E-Sports Arena in Clovis.

He calls it’s a sport, where practice makes you better.

A sport where people can make money and teach others, like some are doing in an up coming E-Sports summer camp.

Dr. Wynn says, “These kids are going to be teaching others how to be better competitors. How to brand themselves. How to build You-Tube channels. It’s going to be great.”

Experts say it’s about having balance in your life.

If gaming becomes the dominant activity and you have withdrawal symptoms – doctors i spoke with say put the games away for a while – get out and take a walk.

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