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WHO continues move to establish gaming disorder

December 28, 2017
by Gary A. Enos, Editor
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The World Health Organization (WHO) appears poised to add a gaming disorder to its standard manual for health data and trends, despite protests by many that it is wrongly applying substance use criteria to video and digital gaming.

Several media outlets reported this month that a draft of the WHO's 11th edition of the International Classification of Diseases (ICD-11) includes “gaming disorder” in a section on “disorders due to addictive behaviors.” The ICD is the global health information standard for morbidity and mortality statistics and is used to determine reimbursement and resource allocation for around 70% of the world's health expenditures. The 11th edition of the ICD is expected to be finalized in the coming year.

Earlier this year, the co-author of a debate paper critical of the WHO's anticipated move suggested to Addiction Professional that the organization appeared surprised by the volume of opposition but remained committed to adding gaming disorder to the ICD. Christopher J. Ferguson, PhD, professor of psychology at Stetson University, and others believe that research evidence on patterns of gaming remains too conflicting to justify a definitive statement on problematic gaming.

Opponents of the WHO's move add that it is being fueled in part by some parents' exaggerated claims about their children's excessive use of technology and how it has hampered their performance in school and in other life domains.

The WHO's description for gaming disorder states that in general, a pattern of gaming and negative consequences should be apparent for at least 12 months for a diagnosis to be assigned.