Official! Gaming addiction is mental illness

Food for thought: People hooked on games often eat at strange times, or forget to eat at all.

Is “gaming addiction” really a disease? The World Health Organisation has declared that it is. Its decision could change the types of treatment offered to people who play too many games.

What’s happening

The World Health Organisation (WHO) has included “gaming disorder” in its list of medical diseases. The WHO is taken very seriously by doctors. Therapists will probably start offering more treatments for video game addicts, and these treatments are now more likely to be paid for by insurance companies.

Find out more

Video games are made to get us hooked. Some are even designed with the help of psychologists.

It works: 2.6 billion people around the world play video games. A 2009 study found that 8.5% of young people are addicted to gaming. That number could be higher today, as games are better, and we carry them everywhere on our phones.

It is hard to know for sure, as experts do not agree on what counts as gaming addiction — or even whether it exists.

According to the WHO, it is when gaming takes over and harms your life for at least one year. A group of scientists have replied that there is not enough proof that games themselves are the problem. “Gaming addicts”, they say, may actually be suffering from other issues, like ADHD or depression.

Who is right?

Some say…

We have all heard of people whose lives were ruined because they could not put down the controller. The WHO has only confirmed what we already knew: gaming addiction is awful. Yet doctors rarely take this problem seriously, and proper treatment is very pricey. Thanks to the WHO’s decision, these people may finally get the help they need.

Others think…

Video games are not dangerous: they can actually be good for us. For these addicts, gaming is in fact a symptom of a deeper problem; without games, they might turn to alcohol or drugs instead. By blaming games, the WHO is drawing attention away from the causes of “gaming addiction”, such as depression. In other words, it is only making things worse.

You Decide

  1. Would the world be better without video games?

Activities

  1. Write down all the things you think it is possible to be addicted to. As a class, share all your lists. Which things come up the most?

Some People Say...

“It is hard to understand addiction unless you have experienced it.”

Ken Hensley

What do you think?

Word Watch

Insurance companies
You pay these companies regularly. In return, they cover the costs if you have specific problems. In countries like the US, insurance pays for many people’s health care.
Psychologists
Experts in the human mind, and how it affects behaviour.
ADHD
Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. People with ADHD tend to be impulsive and easily distracted.
Symptom
A sign of a disease.

Subjects

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