If your child spends long hours playing video games, you might be worried they’re addicted.

“Gaming disorder” is real, and has now been classified as a disease in the World Health Organisation’s International Classification of Diseases and Related Health Problems (ICD). The new ICD will be adopted in 2022.

If you are worried about your child’s gaming, this new classification will help you identify whether they have a problem and if you need professional help.

Gaming disorder is not just for kids – it can be experienced by gamers of all ages: children, teenagers and adults.

The condition isn’t defined by gaming too much, or the number of hours played, but rather it’s when gaming interferes with a person’s daily life.

To be diagnosed, a person will demonstrate all three of the following symptoms for at least 12 months:

  • losing control over gaming
  • prioritising gaming to the extent that it takes precedence over other activities and interests
  • continuing to game despite negative effects on work, school, family life, health, hygiene, relationships, finances or social relationships.

The classified disorder focuses on gaming only, it doesn’t include other digital behaviours such as overuse of the internet, online gambling, social media, or smart phones.

It also relates to gaming on any device, although most people who develop clinically significant gaming problems play primarily on the internet.

Serious health condition

While millions of kids and adults around the world play video games, only a small number are expected to meet the WHO criteria.

Like other diagnosable addictions, gaming disorder is an extreme mental health condition expected to affect only 0.003 to 1% of the population who engage in video-gaming activities.

This small percentage still however incorporates a lot of people. Drawing from a random sample of 1,234 people of all ages, around 67% of Australians play video games. This would mean that around 5,000-16,500 Aussies could potentially be diagnosed with the disorder.

Not everyone agrees this is a disorder

While it feels like this classification is a fait accompli, the designation of gaming disorder as an addiction remains hotly debated.

The American Psychiatric Association (APA) is still not convinced. Two things are holding it back.

The first is that problem gaming often occurs alongside other factors