Is gaming addiction a “disorder” or a “junk diagnosis”?

Enlarge / When does enthusiasm for gaming turn into addiction, if ever? (credit: Getty | Romona Robbins Photography)

The World Health Organization lists "hazardous gaming" and "gaming disorder" as potential problems "due to substance use or addictive behavior" in a newly proposed draft update of its widely used International Compendium of Diseases. The listings, set to be finalized this year, renew a debate about if and when playing video games can cross the line from casual pastime to a harmful addiction.

The draft language suggests a patient with gaming disorder is one who lets playing video games "take precedence over other life interests and daily activities," resulting in "negative consequences" such as "significant impairment in personal, family, social, educational, occupational or other important areas of functioning." Such symptoms would "normally" need to be present for at least 12 months for a diagnosis, under the listing, but could be indicated even sooner.

Hazardous gaming, as defined in the draft document, more generally encompasses game playing that "increases the risk of harmful physical or mental health consequences to the individual or to others around this individual."

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