In 2018, the World Health Organization (WHO) added gaming disorder to the 11th Revision of the International Classification of Diseases (ICD-11). The ICD is used by medical practitioners to diagnose conditions and by researchers to categorize conditions. The inclusion of gaming disorder is remarkable in that the impact on both mental and physical health from excessive gaming has qualified as a medical disorder.
People with gaming disorder have trouble controlling the amount of time they spend playing video games and prioritize gaming over other activities in their lives. Furthermore, their gaming behaviors can incur negative effects. While some experts have wondered if gaming addiction can develop as a coping mechanism from depression and anxiety, it has been observed that video game addiction actually increases levels of depression and anxiety in children. This is concerning, for we are now seeing mental disorders on the rise. When the addiction stops, depression and anxiety improve.
There are other side effects to gaming disorder aside from ones directly related to mental health. The disorder has been associated with sleep disturbances, low fitness levels, and poor nutrition. These can impact physical health long-term but can also exacerbate pre-existing mental health concerns.
The key distinction here is that participation in video games has to be excessive and cause dysfunction in several areas of life, such as education and social life. Gaming disorder only affects a small population of people, however, people who partake in video games should be aware of the amount of time they spend on gaming and similar activities, especially when it comes at the expense of their other daily activities or their health.
For a person to be diagnosed with gaming disorder, their life has to be significantly impaired by their gaming behaviors for at least 12 months. Characteristics of gaming disorder include lacking control over gaming habits and continuing to partake in the behavior despite its negative consequences. While the disorder can affect individuals of all ages, most of the research was conducted on adolescents, teenagers, and young adults. According to a different study, gaming disorder is more likely to affect boys and young men than it is to affect girls and women.