The World Health Organization has just added an unusual disorder to its list of mental health conditions. People who play an excessive amount of video games could be diagnosed with a “gaming disorder.”
Of course, they aren’t saying that anyone who lives to play video games has this mental disorder. But they do set out some criteria to identify people with a gaming disorder. First, they show impaired control over gaming. This includes such things as frequency, intensity, and duration.
Second, a person with this disorder shows an increasing priority to gaming, to the extent that gaming takes precedence over other life interests and daily activities. Third, there usually is a continuation or escalation of gaming despite the occurrence of negative consequences.
Video gaming is no longer just for the young. It has become increasingly popular with people of all ages. The Entertainment Software Association estimates that more than 150 million Americans play video games. So it is not surprising that psychologists also have been able to document video game addiction.
The fifth edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual for Mental Disorders defined “internet gaming disorder” as a “condition for further study.” It also said the disorder was most common among male adolescents. But we are seeing problems surfacing in every age group.
Video games can be a safe way of improving hand-eye coordination, enhancing problem-solving abilities and relieving stress. But the concerns about addiction and gaming disorder should concern youth and adults. Video games can be addicting, and apparently take over the lives of many who find them too enticing to moderate.