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WHO's Newest Mental Health Disorder: Obsessive Gaming

But parents shouldn't freak out just yet
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Jun 18, 2018 11:26 AM CDT
In this Nov. 3, 2017, file photo, a man plays a game at the Paris Games Week trade fair in Paris.   (AP Photo/Kamil Zihnioglu, File)

(Newser) – The World Health Organization says some obsessive video gamers may actually have an addiction. In its latest revision to a disease classification manual, the UN health agency said Monday that compulsively playing video games now qualifies as a mental health condition, per the AP. WHO said classifying "gaming disorder" as a separate condition will help governments, families, and health care workers be more vigilant and prepared to ID risks. The agency and other experts note that cases of the condition are still rare, with no more than up to 3% of all gamers thought to be affected. Dr. Mark Griffiths, a professor of behavioral addiction, says the new classification will help legitimize the problems and strengthen treatment strategies. Others agree, saying it's critical to ID those hooked on gaming quickly, as they're usually teens or young adults who don't seek help themselves.

But Dr. Joan Harvey, a spokeswoman for the British Psychological Society, warns the new designation might cause unnecessary concern among parents. "People need to understand this doesn't mean every child who spends hours in their room playing games is an addict," she says. The American Psychiatric Association hasn't yet deemed gaming disorder to be a mental health problem, noting more research is needed. Dr. Shekhar Saxena, director of WHO's department for mental health and substance abuse, says to just "be on the lookout" to see if someone's gaming habit is taking over and "interfering with the expected functions of the person." A rep for Britain's Royal College of Psychiatrists said that gaming addictions are usually best treated with psychological therapies and that some medicines might also work.

(Read more gaming stories.)

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