In the 11th edition of its International Classification of Diseases, which was released on Monday, the WHO added compulsive playing of video games to its section on addictive disorders.
The WHO's disease classification system is taken as a global standard. Countries around the world adopt the system to determine what mental conditions afflict their populations.
The organization defined gaming disorder in January as "impaired control over gaming, increasing priority given to gaming over other activities to the extent that gaming takes precedence over other interests and daily activities, and continuation or escalation of gaming despite the occurrence of negative consequences".
It emphasized that for gaming disorder to be diagnosed, the behavior pattern must be of sufficient severity for at least 12 months and undermine social, family or work life.
China's gaming craze is shared across all ages and genders. The digital game market increased 23 percent year-on-year to 219 billion yuan ($34.6 billion) last year, the largest in the world, according to the China Culture and Entertainment Industry Association.
Qu Shan, psychiatric expert at Peking University People's Hospital, said the WHO's new classification is critical to identifying people addicted to video games because they are usually teenagers or young adults who don't seek help on their own.
"It can also guide parents to seek medical treatment for their children, instead of resorting to the electric shock therapy offered by some so-called addiction treatment centers," she said.
Psychological treatment is a good way to treat addictions, she said.
Taking games out of children' s lives will not cure their addiction. Only when the parents pay enough attention to helping their children find other meaningful things to do can they get rid of their addictions, she said.
Liu Huaqing, clinic psychologist at Beijing Huilongguan Hospital, said: "People need to understand that the new classification doesn't mean every child who spends hours in their room playing games is an addict, otherwise medical professionals are going to be flooded with requests for help."
They have to spend a significant amount of time on games to be qualified as having gaming disorder. "The conditions need to become so bad that you failed school or you lost your job," he said.
At a time when video games and tech frenzy are undoubtedly on the rise, it may make sense to put more emphasis on this kind of compulsive behavior, he said, adding that parents, especially young ones, should not adopt a double standard by limiting their children's access to video games, while spending lots of time doing it themselves.
(Source: China Daily)
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