A mum has urged the NHS to diagnose her 15-year-old son with gaming addiction, as she says he has become so consumed by online games that he has not been to school for a year.

Kendall Palmer, from north London, told The Telegraph she has fought for three years to have her son’s condition recognised and treated by the NHS.

Gaming addiction, also known as gaming disorder, was recognised as a mental health condition by the World Health Organisation (WHO) for the first time in January and UK Addiction and Treatment Centres (UKAT) have seen a 300% rise in the amount of admissions where gaming addiction is part of an adult’s reason for treatment since 2014.

With games like Fortnite and Minecraft only growing in popularity among teenagers, how can parents know if their child’s gaming has become a problem that needs addressing?

What is gaming disorder?

According to the WHO a person who has gaming disorder will have difficulty controlling their gaming – ie. they give increasing priority to gaming so that it takes precedence over other interests and daily activities. They will also continue to devote time to playing “despite the occurrence of negative consequences” – such as impact on school work or friendships.

“For gaming disorder to be diagnosed, 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 guidance states.

How can you tell if your child is addicted to gaming?

A teen developing an interest in gaming is not cause for alarm, as studies suggest that gaming disorder affects only a small proportion of people who engage in digital- or video-gaming activities. But parents should be vigilant for signs that gaming is becoming a compulsion.

“Gaming can be a very positive experience but like most things when it comes to the online world it’s a matter of proportion,” explains Internet Matters ambassador and psychologist Dr Linda Papadopoulos. “The problem arises when children and teenagers start to neglect other areas of their lives in order to play online games, or when the only way they can relax is by playing games – as over time a child may start to turn to video games as a way of coping with difficult life issues.”

– Ellen Wallwork

Read more: Here’s How To Tell If Your Child Might Be Addicted To Gaming

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