Gaming Disorder Classified a Disease by World Health Organisation

The World Health Organisation (WHO) have unanimously voted in favor of adding “gaming disorder” to their International Classification of Diseases, with classification coming into effect in 2022. The vote comes a year after an initial draft was proposed to update the International Classification of Diseases with “gaming disorder”.

“Gaming disorder” in the ICD is found under “disorders due to addictive behaviours” which also houses the “gambling disorder” classification. The description of “gaming disorder” reads as follows:

Gaming disorder is characterised by a pattern of persistent or recurrent gaming behaviour (‘digital gaming’ or ‘video-gaming’), which may be online (i.e., over the internet) or offline, manifested by:

1. impaired control over gaming (e.g., onset, frequency, intensity, duration, termination, context);

2. increasing priority given to gaming to the extent that gaming takes precedence over other life interests and daily activities; and

3. continuation or escalation of gaming despite the occurrence of negative consequences. The behaviour pattern is of sufficient severity to result in significant impairment in personal, family, social, educational, occupational or other important areas of functioning.

The pattern of gaming behaviour may be continuous or episodic and recurrent. The gaming behaviour and other features are normally evident over a period of at least 12 months in order for a diagnosis to be assigned, although the required duration may be shortened if all diagnostic requirements are met and symptoms are severe.

ICD 11 – 6C51 Gaming disorder

News of the classification has been met with opposition from a number of different global game industry associations. A collection of these associations released a joint statement regarding the classification, stating:

“The WHO is an esteemed organization and its guidance needs to be based on regular, inclusive, and transparent reviews backed by independent experts. ‘Gaming disorder’ is not based on sufficiently robust evidence to justify its inclusion in one of the WHO’s most important norm-setting tools.”

The ESA Press Releases

The global game industry organization pointed towards the benefits of the interactive entertainment industry like its “leading role in the development of emerging technologies, including virtual reality, augmented reality, artificial intelligence and big data analysis. It is significant in advancing in research science across many fields ranging from mental health, dementia, cancer, and pioneer advances in accessibility.” Alongside these benefits it also claims the industry has developed, “world-class consumer protection tools including parental controls and responsible game-education.” 

While there’s no doubt that gaming addiction is a real thing, it is hard to think of it as a disease on its own. Often times excessive gaming can be used to escape from underlying mental health issues such as depression and anxiety. With that said, the exposure this classification will bring to gaming addiction and subsequent studies on its causes should be seen a beneficial to the gaming industry as whole.

What do you think about “Gaming Disorder”? Let me know in The Pit below.


Enricofairme is the founder and lead writer on He has been creating content about video games for the past 6 years. You can follow Eli on Twitter @enricofairme.

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