The World Health Organization has added gaming disorder to the list of recognized illnesses.

On May 25, all 194 member states of the United Nations agency agreed to adapt the eleventh revision of the International Statistical Classification of Diseases and Related Health Problems, also known as ICD-11.

Addictive Behavior

The latest revision officially placed gaming disorder in the list of disorders. It will start to take effect on Jan. 1, 2022.

Gaming disorder is in a subcategory in the ICD-11 called "Disorders due to substance use or addictive behaviors." It is listed along with alcoholism, gambling addiction and a section devoted to harmful cannabis use dependence.

WHO described the gaming disorder as a pattern of persistent or recurrent gaming behavior online or offline characterized by impaired control over gaming, increased priority to gaming to the extent the person prioritizes it over daily activities and other life interests; and continuation or even escalation of gaming regardless that it significantly impairs important areas of functioning such as those that involve the family, occupation, and education.

To be diagnosed with the disorder, the patients often exhibit these behaviors for at least 12 months albeit the period considered can be shortened if the symptoms are severe.

"Gaming disorder is characterized by a pattern of persistent or recurrent gaming behaviour ('digital gaming' or 'video-gaming'), which may be online (i.e., over the internet) or offline," WHO described the condition. "The pattern of gaming behaviour may be continuous or episodic and recurrent."

Risks Of Gaming Addiction

Hardcore gamers may face serious and even fatal consequences. In 2015, for instance, a 32-year-old man in Taiwan died in an Internet Cafe during a three-day online gaming binge.

In China, a 26-year-old who was addicted to Blizzard's World of Warcraft MMORPG died from heart failure after playing the game for seven days straight.

WHO hopes that adopting gaming disorder as an official illness may help draw health professionals towards identifying risks for the disorder. The move may also lead to relevant prevention and treatment measures.

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