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Are Video Games An Addiction? The World Health Organization Thinks So

June 18, 2018, 9:06 PM UTC

Are video games really that bad for your health? According to the World Health Organization, video games are so addictive, they require a new classification.

As of today, “gaming disorder” will appear in Internal Classification of Diseases, the organization’s compendium of over 55,000 injuries and medical conditions. For both clinical diagnostics and global health managements, the ICD is widely considered a definitive diagnostic manual.

Video games are built on the same types of algorithms that make other types of games and media addictive, including smartphones and social media. The video game industry is also a financial powerhouse, releasing popular new multiplayer games like Fortnite and drawing millions of players each month.

At a press conference today, WHO researchers reminded the audience that gambling addiction has also long been listed in the ICD. In regard to gaming addiction, “WHO has been working in this area and reviewing the evidence for the last several years, so it’s not a sudden decision,” explained Dr. Shekhar Saxena, the organization’s director of the Department for Mental Health and Substance Use.

But as the saying goes, it’s one thing to admit a problem. It’s another to deal with it.

At this point, there aren’t treatment options aside from online forums where players discuss their compulsive gaming. The New York Times reports that there are no formal organizations that deal with gaming addiction, and so far, there are no set treatment standards. However, a classification may make it easier for individual players to acknowledge their addiction and receive treatment. At the press briefing, Saxena called labeling the disorder the “first step” before identifying possible treatment options.

Gaming industry trade group Entertainment Software Association struck back at the WHO announcement, calling the classification “deeply flawed” and noting many players enjoy gaming as a therapeutic release from everyday stress.

There is mounting evidence that many of the nearly 2.6 billion people who play video games may not be fully in control of their habit. As explosively popular games like Fortnite draw scores of new fans, these ranks include high-profile celebrities like professional baseball players, who have been forced to acknowledge that too much gaming is both distracting and ultimately hard on their hands. Last month, Boston Red Sox pitcher David Price missed a game against the New York Yankee’s because of mild carpal tunnel caused by playing too much Fortnite.

The new ICD will likely be officially updated in May 2019, according to Variety.