World Health Organization Finally Recognizes Gaming Disorder as Illness

Phillip Cunningham
May 31, 2019

In January, when the WHO first announced it would consider recognizing "gaming disorder", the United States video game industry group, ESA, said the designation "recklessly trivializes real mental health issues".

"Video games are popular around the world".

The multi-billion dollar gaming industry has been unable to respond to this World Health Organization decision.

"The increased risk may be from the frequency of gaming, from the amount of time spent on these activities, from the neglect of other activities and priorities, from risky behaviors associated with gaming or its context, from the adverse consequences of gaming, or from the combination of these".

The condition was included in a section of the global medical guide that details disorders due to substance abuse or addictive behaviors, such as a gambling disorder.

Some mental health providers have also voiced opposition to the WHO's decision.


According to the World Health Organization experts who analyzed studies on gaming behavior, people's use of gaming is different from their use of the internet, social media, online gambling and online shopping.

For one to be diagnosed with Gaming Disorder, "the behaviour pattern must be of sufficient severity to result in significant impairment in personal, family, social, educational, occupational or other important areas of functioning and would normally have been evident for at least 12 months". The revision will officially take effect on January 1, 2022. In a statement, the gaming industry feels World Health Organization reached their decision without "sufficiently robust evidence" and is "concerned [WHO] reached their conclusion without the consensus of the academic community".

"The problem with gaming and other...new media is that they produce a different culture", says Carras, who also considers herself a gamer. During that time, they noted burnout was not considered an actual mental disorder even though it is "one of the most widely discussed mental health problems in today's society".

Gaming disorder will be listed in ICD-11 as part of its chapter on "mental, behavioral or neurodevelopmental disorders". However, it is not just the worker who suffers but the employer as well.

The syndrome of burnout that has faced criticism over its legitimacy in the past has now been officially validated by medical health professionals for those seeking serious help for the condition.

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