Skip to content

Gaming addiction a mental health disorder

An inability to stop playing video games will be classified as a mental health condition for the first time in WHO's manual of the world's diseases.

GENEVA (AN) — An inability to stop playing video games due to digital addiction will be classified as a mental health condition for the first time in the World Health Organization's diagnostic manual of the world's diseases.

The addition of "gaming disorder" is among the notable changes that WHO unveiled in its eleventh edition of the International Classification of Diseases — the first such update in nearly three decades.

The ICD-11, as it is known, was released publicly in Geneva. It is a global manual of standards for classifying diseases that are the basis for mortality and morbidity statistics.

The United Nations' health agency said the manual contains 55 000 unique codes for injuries, diseases and causes of death, providing a common language that allows health professionals to share information across the globe. It is also used by health insurers, national program managers and data collection specialists.

“It enables us to understand so much about what makes people get sick and die and to take action to prevent suffering and save lives," WHO's Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said in a statement.

Other changes include new chapters on traditional medicine and sexual health, which now includes "gender incongruence" previously listed under mental health conditions.

“A key principle in this revision was to simplify the coding structure and electronic tooling — this will allow health care professionals to more easily and completely record conditions,” said Dr. Robert Jakob, WHO's team leader for classifications, terminologies and standards.

A modern electronic tool

The last version of the manual — used in at least 43 languages and more than 120 countries — was published in 1990.

But a lot has happened in the world since the previous revision, known as ICD-10. At a May conference, WHO released a 34-page background document on all the changes.

It called the 11th revision "a modern electronic tool" that fills a need for accurately recording diseases and causes of death, but with important updates to better reflect current scientific knowledge and the latest information on prevention and treatment.

The World Health Assembly, which is WHO's decision-making body, will be asked to approve it in May 2019 so that the changes can come into effect at the start of 2022.