Addiction to video games like Fortnite has been officially recognised as a mental health condition – treatable on the NHS.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) has included ‘Gaming Disorder’ in the latest revision to an international disease classification manual, saying classing it as a separate condition will “serve a public health purpose for countries to be better prepared to identify this issue”.
Dr Shekhar Saxena, director of the WHO’s department for mental health, said the organisation accepted that Gaming Disorder should be listed as a new problem based on scientific evidence, in addition to “the need and the demand for treatment in many parts of the world”.
The move means that addiction to games – such as the popular Fortnite, a craze that has swept across the globe – could be treatable on the NHS.
Dr Joan Harvey, a spokeswoman for the British Psychological Society, warned that the new designation might cause unnecessary concern among parents, and said only a minority of gamers would be affected.
But others welcomed the move, saying it was critical to identify addiction early as teenagers or young adults would not seek help themselves.
Dr Henrietta Bowden-Jones, a spokeswoman for behavioural addictions at the Royal College of Psychiatrists, said: “We come across parents who are distraught, not only because they’re seeing their child drop out of school, but because they’re seeing an entire family structure fall apart.”
Dr Mark Griffiths, a professor of behavioural addiction at Nottingham Trent University, said the new classification would help legitimise the problem and strengthen treatment strategies.
Dr Griffiths, who has been researching the concept of video gaming disorder for 30 years, said: “Video gaming is like a non-financial kind of gambling from a psychological point of view.
“Gamblers use money as a way of keeping score whereas gamers use points.”
He estimated that the percentage of video game players with a compulsive problem was likely to be extremely small – much less than 1% – and that many such people would likely have other underlying problems, like depression, bipolar disorder or autism.