WHO Recognizes Gaming Addiction As a Mental Health Condition

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The World Health Organization (WHO) earlier this month classified gaming addiction as a mental health condition. The organization’s beta draft of the eleventh International Classification of Diseases (ICD-11) characterizes gaming addiction “by a pattern of persistent or recurrent gaming behavior.”

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Symptoms of gaming addiction, which can occur online or offline, include:

  • Impaired control over gaming (onset, frequency, intensity, duration)
  • Increasing priority given to gaming
  • Continuation or escalation of gaming despite negative consequences

The behavior pattern associated with gaming addiction is so severe that it can have dire consequences on an individual’s social abilities, relationships with friends and family, education, career and other important areas of life. Gaming behavior can also occur episodically or recurrently.

Symptoms of gaming addiction must be “normally evident over a period of at least 12 months” for a diagnosis to be made. However, health care professionals may make a diagnosis if a person has exhibited unusually severe symptoms for fewer than 12 months.

A recent study from the University of Oxford indicates that although children spend a lot of time in front of screens, in most cases, digital habits coexist with daily life pretty well. The study, which examined children between ages 8 and 18, found that boys spend more time playing video games than girls. Boys spend an average of 50 minutes per day playing video games, while girls spend just 9 minutes.

For now, the inclusion of gaming addiction in ICD-11 only provides a clinical description of the condition–not prevention and treatment guidelines.

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Gregory Hartl, a spokesperson for the WHO, described the ICD as the “basis for identification of health trends and statistics globally and the international standard for reporting diseases and health conditions. It is used by medical practitioners around the world to diagnose conditions and by researchers to categorize conditions.”

Many countries, including China and South Korea, have already identified gaming addiction as a public health issue. In China, one major internet provider limits the hours that children can play its most popular games. South Korea introduced a law that bans children under 16 from accessing online games between midnight and 6 a.m.

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Until there are clearly defined treatment guidelines, Guardian Recovery will continue to use our evidence-based approach, which includes a combination of counseling and case management to treat gaming addiction. In our experience, we’ve found that a healthier future requires a clear path to get there. Our first-rate case managers serve as advocates for our clients, providing 24/7 support and guidance, and helping their clients reach their goals. Learn more about how our case managers can help you or someone you love by contacting a Recovery Specialist at (888) 693-1872.


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Disclaimer: Does not guarantee specific treatment outcomes, as individual results may vary. Our services are not a substitute for professional medical advice or diagnosis; please consult a qualified healthcare provider for such matters.


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Reviewed professionally for accuracy by:

Ryan Soave


Ryan Soave brings deep experience as a Licensed Mental Health Counselor, certified trauma therapist, program developer, and research consultant for Huberman Lab at Stanford University Department of Neurobiology. Post-graduation from Wake Forest University, Ryan quickly discovered his acumen for the business world. After almost a decade of successful entrepreneurship and world traveling, he encountered a wave of personal and spiritual challenges; he felt a calling for something more. Ryan returned to school and completed his Master’s Degree in Mental Health Counseling. When he started working with those suffering from addiction and PTSD, he found his passion. He has never looked back.

Written by:

Cayla Clark

Cayla Clark

Cayla Clark grew up in Santa Barbara, CA and graduated from UCLA with a degree in playwriting. Since then she has been writing on addiction recovery and psychology full-time, and has found a home as part of the Guardian Recovery team.

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