Playing video games obsessively may soon lead to the diagnosis of a mental health disorder, but don’t put the controller down yet, research also suggests there are definite advantages to gaming in moderation.
Four decades filled with thousands of different video games have captured the minds of adults and children alike, but in recent years’ treatment centers have begun to fill with a different type of addict. In May of 2018, The World Health Organization(WHO) will release its eleventh edition of the International Classification of Diseases(ICD), to be used by healthcare practitioners all over the world. In the Beta draft of the forthcoming release, “Gaming Disorder” has been added to the list of mental health conditions. The diagnosis is listed under disorders due to addictive behaviors also classified as “Gambling Disorder”.
Whether playing offline or online, the ICD draft defines the disorder as “recurrent or persistent behavior” displayed by “impaired control over gaming” with “increasing priority given to gaming to the extent that gaming takes precedence over other life interests and daily activities, and continuation or escalation of gaming despite the occurrence of negative consequences.”
According to the draft, the diagnosis can be made after symptoms are displayed over a twelve-month period. However, in certain severe situations, gamers can be classified with a mental health disorder earlier if all the requirements are met. No treatment or prevention is expected to be listed in the ICD only a clinical description, however, the listing itself aids treatment facilities in reimbursement for services.
Despite the upcoming release, a bountiful amount of research stands that video games are beneficial in many ways. Most recently, a German study released in early December 2017 showed evidence that gamers who people who played Super Mario Brothers for thirty minutes per day for two months, had a rise in grey matter in certain portions of the brain responsible for spatial navigation, memory formation, strategic planning, and fine motor skills. The study concluded that playing video games could potentially be used as a therapy for patients with mental disorders such as Alzheimer’s.
Another study from the University of Padua shuns the concept that video games are bad for children. In fact, it proves fast-paced video games improve the reading skills of children with dyslexia. Other studies suggest gaming can slow the aging process, provide pain relief, improve eyesight, act as a therapy for depressed teenagers, assist stroke victims to full recovery, and they might even make a person smarter. In all these studies participants played games for less than ten hours per day, but most for a shorter duration.
So where lies the problem when there are so many positive attributes to playing a game? It’s all in the definition outlined by the WHO in their Beta draft. It may be known when gaming becomes a problem, but it’s still unclear as to why it begins. The ICD addition of “gaming Disorder” will allow practitioners all over the world to share data related to gaming. In turn this sharing of information will aid researchers and potentially provide answers. Until then, gaming in moderation seems to be the key.