The World Health Organization has officially classified “sustained gaming behaviors” as a mental disorder. WHO included the disorder into the Diagnostic handbook and confirmed this proposition after a series of debates over whether gaming disorder ‘was really a disorder’. Somehow it proved to be true. It is a surprise to see how long it took for experts to recognize the gravity of this issue.
So what is this gaming disorder?
In the draft, 11th Revision of the International Classification of Diseases (ICD-11), gaming disorder is characterized as a prolonged practice of gaming behavior, be it either offline or online. The inclusion of a disorder in ICD is a consideration which countries usually take into account when planning public health strategies and monitoring trends of disorders. WHO is working on updating the ICD. Publishing of the 11th revision will take place later this year.
The disorder has a number of indications out of which impaired control over gaming takes the lead in the list of symptoms. A person suffering from this disorder will experience gaming taking precedence over other daily activities such as going to school, eating, sleeping, interacting with family members etc. If one can’t bring themselves to stop gaming, despite realizing the clear occurrence of negative consequences, it becomes an addiction.
However, not everyone involved in gaming suffer from this condition. It’s mandatory to see that the practice is done for more than 12 months straight before diagnosis.
A non-financial kind of gambling
Those who experience gaming disorder develop a strong addiction for gaining points or winning the game. The developers construct the game to drive the human mind in wanting to score more points. This offers a false sense of achievement within the game at the end of the day.
“Video gaming is like a non-financial kind of gambling from a psychological point of view,” noted Dr. Mark Griffiths, a distinguished professor of behavioral addiction at Nottingham Trent University. The difference between gambling and gaming is that “gamblers use money as a way of keeping score whereas gamers use points.”
Continued unhealthy gaming attitudes can also bring about a number of negative consequences. These include disturbances to one’s sleeping patterns, inability to engage in physical activities and dysfunctions in terms of dietary, bowel patterns etc.
It’s a small proportion
The controversy behind gaming came in to spotlight after a 9-year-old girl in the United Kingdom was sent to rehab for compulsively playing the popular survival shooting game Fortnite. “She is in therapy for the addiction after she became withdrawn, agitated and disturbed from playing up to 10 hours a day — sometimes playing until dawn, wetting herself so she didn’t have to leave the screen,” her mom said.
This doesn’t mean that your child, your friend or your partner suffer from the disorder. It’s only a small proportion out of the gaming population who show equivalent characteristics actually suffer from it. But does it mean that others shouldn’t be worried about being a victim of the disorder? Absolutely not. They are actually the ones in imminent danger of being victims themselves in the near future. Those who engage in frequent gaming should be aware that it has direct effects on one’s health.
According to Dr. Poznyak, from WHO’s Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse, only a trained health professional can diagnose the disorder. Psychologist Anthony Bean further supported Dr. Poznyak statement by adding that “I’m a clinician and a researcher, so I see people who play video games and believe themselves to be on the lines of addicted”. Thus the statement stresses that every gamer is not necessarily in a place to obtain clinical treatment or undergo therapy and one cannot expect a physician to even attend to the gamer wholly on the fact that he/she plays games. Parents need to thoroughly understand that this doesn’t mean every child who spends hours in their room playing games is an addict.
Sri Lanka should maybe have its own programs
The reSTART initiative by Dr. Hilarie Cash offers rehabilitation programs in dealing with people suffering from gaming addiction. Dr. Hilaire, commenting on WHO’s decision believes this will be a game changer. But she also notes, “although how quickly the game will change, I don’t know.”
Over the past few months, the demand for treatment and recognition of gaming as a disorder has been on the rise by health professionals and concerned people all over the world. It is supposed that, to face the future non-traditional threats as these the authorities here in Sri Lanka should ideally execute programs. Hence victims of these disorders have therapies to attend promptly.
Wait, is gaming really that bad?
Improved hand-eye coordination and cognitive skills are two direct benefits of gaming. But the benefits of gaming go well beyond entertainment and improved hand-eye coordination. Complex, challenging, and ambitious, video games have come a long way in assisting players to make faster decisions both in virtual and real-life occurrences. The players adapt fast and execute reasonable thinking during the play in order to survive. Decisions made in split forth of seconds are the turning points in the game which ultimately decides the winner.
At times, players witness both roles of the hero and villain during a gameplay. This provides an opportunity to understand the differences attributed to the characters of the hero and the villain. These attributes would even relate to a person in real life.
It’s a known factor that certain brain regions undergo alteration during prolonged gameplay. This is utilized as a method of treatment for patients with mental disorders. More hours of gameplay for patients with schizophrenia, post-traumatic stress disorder and Alzheimer’s can go a long way in terms of recovering.
But does the pros outweigh the cons?
The question is, are these benefits really enough to balance it all out? Sure, gaming is fun and can even do you good. But it can also potentially have some serious repercussions as well. If WHO’s classification indicates anything, its that addiction in any form is extremely dangerous.
Over the recent years, children and adolescents accessing psychology services regarding the problematic use of online video games have increased. Accordingly, assigning effective treatment is essential. Studies like one of the Turkish Adolescents have revealed a direct relationship between general family functioning and Internet addiction. Their results show that better general family functioning reduces the chances of becoming a gaming addict. Overall, it’s clear that perhaps a strong sense of family support may enable the patient to recover from Internet addiction.
In case you didn’t know, the esports community in Sri Lanka is actually growing strong. In fact, esports is now recognized by the Olympic Committee, with Sri Lanka participating under this category at the Asian Games. Point is, the person who has control over himself can convert gaming into a most distinguished aspect of their life. On the other hand, the one who doesn’t necessarily have this self-control may undergo all forms of suffering. Taken together, continued gaming is actually bad for anyone who lacks self-control which is the case in most situations. And yes, your mother was probably right when she said that gaming doesn’t make your life any better.
Feature image credits: Sleuth Magazine