Getting hooked to the controls and screen could actually be dangerous, according to the World Health Organization (WHO), which recently declared “gaming disorder” a new mental health condition in its International Classification of Diseases (ICD) made public last month.
According to the Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse, the arm of WHO which has followed the trends surrounding video games and put forward the diagnosis, the problem may be growing, although not every experts believe it should be on the ICD list. However, WHO believes that its inclusion may help to alert people to the possible existence of the condition and prompt them to seek help.
Gaming disorder, WHO believes, can be identified by features. For example, if gaming takes priority over other activities, and pushes those activities to the side, it should be cause for concern.
Another cause for alarm is when gaming activities continue even after they cause negative consequences. Finally, according to WHO, when gaming activities lead to distress and damage to relationships with, for example, family and friends or in educational, social or job environments.
The fallout of gaming disorder can result in problems sleeping, eating and getting enough physical activity, which can directly affect physical health as well.
According to WHO, generally gaming disorder becomes a serious problem if it is identified as persisting for at least a year. The problem, however, must be properly diagnosed by a trained health professional. The organization is hoping that by including it in its ICD more people will be aware of the condition and seek to address it.
However, not everyone is convinced.
“It's a little bit premature to label this as a diagnosis,” Anthony Bean, a licensed psychologist and executive director at The Telos Project, a nonprofit mental health clinic in Fort Worth, Texas, told news organization CNN.
“I’m a clinician and a researcher, so I see people who play video games and believe themselves to be on the lines of addicted.”
CNN reported Bean saying, “they're actually using gaming ‘more as a coping mechanism for either anxiety or depression’.
“… When anxiety and depression is dealt with, the gaming goes down significantly,” Bean added.
However, supporters and objectors of the WHO’s new diagnosis agree on one point: Concerned Caribbean Americans, especially parents, should get as much information as possible about the effects of gaming.
“That’s by far the number one thing that comes in with parents who have concerns is, they don't even know what games are being played,” Bean told CNN. “The first question to ask, then, is ‘Why is this interesting to you’?"