Gaming addiction to be recognised as mental health condition by World Health Organisation

Ella Wills
Gaming addiction: Persistent gaming behaviour will be classified as a mental health condition in new guidelines published in 2018: Getty Images for The Sime Awards

Gaming addiction is to be listed as a mental health condition by the World Health Organisation.

"Gaming disorder" is set to appear in the 11th edition of the International Classification of Diseases (ICD-11) in 2018.

A draft version of ICD-11 described the condition as a pattern of persistent or recurring gaming behaviour, which could lead to "significant impairment" in social and educational functioning.

The widely-used diagnostic manual was last updated in 1990.

The disorder could significantly affect people's social and educational functioning, a draft guide said

The guide will class the condition within a section for "mental, behavioural or neurodevelopmental disorders".

The ICD is the foundation for the identification of health trends and statistics globally, and the international standard for reporting diseases and health conditions.

It will say the disorder is "characterised by a pattern of persistent or recurrent gaming behaviour - including digital gaming or video-gaming - which may be online or offline".

Symptoms could include "increasing priority given to gaming" so that it takes over "other life interests and daily activities", according to the draft.

Sufferers of the condition may also present a "continuation or escalation of gaming despite the occurrence of negative consequences".

Gaming disorder can lead to "significant impairment in personal, family, social, educational, occupational or other important areas of functioning", the draft said.

Abnormal gaming behaviour should be apparent in a period of at least 12 months, but this may be shortened if "symptoms are severe", it added.

Dr Richard Graham, technology addiction specialist at the Nightingale Hospital in London, told the BBC the decision was "significant".

He said: "It is significant because it creates the opportunity for more specialised services. It puts it on the map as something to take seriously."

But he added that "it could lead to confused parents whose children are just enthusiastic gamers".

Some countries have already recognised the disorder as a health issue, with many taking action.

In South Korea the government has banned access for children under 16 to online games between midnight and 6am.

While in China internet giant Tencet has limited the hours children can play on some of its games.