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Gaming: a Mental Health Disorder

The World Health Organization has added a new disorder to its list, and it’s gaming.

That’s right—gaming can now be considered a mental health disorder. The symptoms of this disease are an inability to stop oneself from gaming, to be so completely consumed into gaming that all other aspects of your life descend into chaos. The highest priority is to play games, and everything else has no importance. Sleep, work, eating, and everything else is abandoned past becoming detrimental to oneself because all that is desired is to play games. To be eligible to be diagnosed, and possibly treated in the future, you need to show at least 12 months of consistent declining mental functions that affect your life socially, personally, educationally, with your work, and with your family.

I do not agree with making this a mental health disorder. Adding gaming as a disorder lessens the impact of real disorders and makes a mockery of people actually suffering from real addictions.

Let’s talk about it.

Anything in this world can be an addiction if you allow it to control you. That doesn’t mean everything should be medically classified and professionally treated. Every day, people play games to lose themselves in those worlds, to escape the rough and tumultuous times they’re having, and/or to simply get enjoyment out of an interactive medium. Being addicted to gaming is a lack of mental willpower to put your priorities in the correct order because of lack of desire or laziness.

Having a full time job and family, I know the hours in which I can play, and when I need to take care of other, more important, aspects of my life. I know I have to work to pay the bills and to fund my hobbies. This is the case with every adult.

There are exceptions of course, like living in terrible circumstances that are outside of your ability to change, but even then it’s less a disorder and more a conscious decision to seek refuge somewhere else. When I was younger, my parents gave me structure and told me when I could or couldn’t play, and I had to work within those parameters. Today, today things are different.

Kids do not have a mental disorder from gaming, because of gaming. Instead, they lack parents who have the rightful authority to tell them when they have to stop playing, and instead bend to the will of their children.

A child doesn’t know better and will indulge him or herself completely into whatever they enjoy without regards to any possible consequences or negative outcomes. If a child loves chocolate and left unsupervised, they’ll eat and eat to their heart’s content. Where this shift in dynamic happened, where parents allowed their children to gain authority over them is beyond me, but it’s bad that parents would rather seek professional help on how to stop their child from playing games.

Instead of telling their kid that they are done for the day, they are going on Google and going to web pages dedicated to educating them in determining and dealing with game addiction. They can’t seem to tell them to stop playing Fortnite and allow them to descend into recklessness, and instead of the World Health Organization telling parents to do their job, they simply make a game like Fortnite one of the focuses on the classification.

If people aren’t taught at a young age how to conduct themselves and how to prioritize their lives, how can they when they grow up? Even the World Health Organization doesn’t completely seem to agree with this classification because they have no way to council those affected or have any real way of providing help for those with this issue. They even go on to say that this supposed disease only affects a small portion of gamers, but for the rest of us to stay vigilant.

I could be wrong and I’ll listen to any reasonable counterpoints but this all just comes across, to me, as another attack on gaming from an organization that either doesn’t understand it, or doesn’t want to. Gaming has been a stigma for a long time and it’s continual growth is something that a lot of the older generation doesn’t understand or accept, some of who work in positions at the World Health Organization.

It feels like we are too quick to diagnose something rather than take responsibility for our actions. I think video games are a healthy avenue of escape, but like everything else, moderation is required.

Are there people out there who game too much at the cost of sacrificing daily necessities?

Yes.

Do I think it’s a mental disorder?

No.

We have a real mental disorder that seems to grow more prevalent by the day, and that’s depression. We should be looking for alternatives in dealing with that, which studies show gaming can be a therapeutic response to.

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  1. It’s like when someone stays in bed for unhealthy amounts of time, you don’t blame the bed, you look for WHY they’re staying in the bed.

  2. Look, the WHO is probably right on this one.
    They must have done extensive research of gaming sites, followed and analysed hundreds of games journalists’ twits, lurked around famed gaming forums, etc.
    After all that, I’m not surprised with their conclusion.
    I’m actually a little worried for the researchers’ own sanity, to be honest!

    • I don’t know…

      I think they might lack perspective and enough relevant information, there is also a stigma against gamers in general. So i think they might have their own biases to deal with.

      Gamers don’t tend to spend a lot of time communicating with “outsiders” about gaming.

    • V_for_Vodka on July 12, 2019 at 11:41 am said

      >WHO
      >extensive research
      Those things are mutually exclusive.

  3. Adding PROBLEM GAMING as a disease gives more tools for mental health and health professionals to diagnose many other conditions earlier (depression, social anxiety etc.) and can prevent even bigger problems and more dangerous addictions from forming later in life. This is definitely a good thing.

    • Also wish to add that this comes at good time. It takes a long time to get proper peer-reviewed data on these things but technology develops too fast for them to keep up. I got my first cellphone in in junior high and you could play a worm game with it, make calls and send texts. Now you can access the Internet, play online and share your life with everyone even with the cheapest phones.

      We all know very well that parents don’t REALLY know much about what is going on in their children’s life if the children don’t want them to know. It didn’t take long time from all the children playing in the parks and forests nearby to sitting all day in front of a monitor.

      Assuming that all parents have the time, ability or interest to know what their offspring is doing all the time is crazy. And this is not only a children’s problem. Gambling has become so much easier too and with loot boxes being “just like Kinder Egg surprises” can’t even imagine what kind of problems future holds for our young… 🤔

  4. random guy who just typed some stuff on July 8, 2019 at 11:13 am said

    I agree with the author’s opinions on this topic. If addiction is the symptom of a problem the root cause of the problem is lack of discipline. You often hear the phrase “everything in moderation”. It’s a wise thing because without balance in life you end up becoming a slave to the thing you are addicted to. Saying it’s a mental disorder is so the mental health industry can make money selling books, drugs, and offer services to parents who don’t want to take the blame for being bad parents and just want the electronic devices like the tv, the game console and the smart phone to be the babysitting machine instead of talking to the children and spending quality time with them. I’m sorry but you pro-WHO guys need to look into this carefully. When has being the addict to something made the thing itself bad? When I go for instance for a drink with friends at a party and don’t intoxicate myself that is a show of control. If I take too much of it I suffer because I made the decision to not stop doing the thing. So the problem is me not the alcohol itself. I am using the alcohol to make me feel good but if it wasn’t alcohol it could have been something else I escape to like say virtual reality porn or drugs. Are the things I am addicted to the root problem or the mere symptom of something wrong? To me its the symptom and not the problem. People addict themselves to things because they can’t control their own behavior and have been enslaved by the need to feel good instead of doing what IS good for them. If you take away a person from the games and the stop being addicted to it, they may just turn to another addiction like smoking weed or being a couch potato and watching tv all day instead of being productive. So look at this from a more zoomed out perspective. Kids need guidance. Parents don’t have time to do this so they ignore them and the kids turn to machines. The machines are not the problem. It’s the symptom. The problem is the bad or absentee parent whose duty is to look out for them and encourage them to partake in variety of things to balance the life. If you have the personality for being easily addicted (such as Jim Sterling who struggles with gambling addiction for example) then it’s time to look at it spiritually. You may be filling your time with stuff that makes you feel good because you can’t cope with the ugly real world around you and so the problem doesn’t rest in the thing you are addicted to but a problem outside of that. (eg people often drink when they are depressed or unemployed to cope or smoke cigarettes when stressed. The reason for doing it is what should be the focus and not the smoking or the drinking. Solve the reason and the addiction will go away because you cured the root cause of the illness rather than focusing on temporary relief of the symtoms)

    • WHO is WORLD Health Organization, You do realize that there are quite many people who live outside the USA? In some countries medicine is free and medical care almost free for the customers.

      I don’t want to get into politics since I joined this site to avoid that.

      • Sigilstone17 on July 8, 2019 at 2:16 pm said

        “Here I am spewing politics, but I don’t wanna get into politics”. Tough shit, here we go: the World Health Organization is a globalist joke. They refuse to take Ebola seriously when we’re rapidly approaching, if not already at, the worst outbreak in history. Instead, they’re crowing “playing video games is disease”. Know why? Because Gamergate broke out and exposed the politics at play in video games. Light was shined on the infection and it quickly dried up. Still kinda pus-covered but that’s another issue. Since their politics can’t overtake video games: now we’re all “DISEASED”. We must now be “CURED”. We’re all sick and they have just the answer: silencing our voices and picking apart our communities.

      • BrigandBoy on July 8, 2019 at 6:12 pm said

        Ville, I understand what you are saying, but you should be skeptical of the WHO. Especially when it comes to something like videogames.

        How do they classify the addiction? What are the tests they perform to diagnose someone? Is it like with a chemical addiction where they can run bloodwork to strongly show evidence that a person is addicted chemically? Or is it a social/psychological problem only, with no overt chemical component?

        Who then decides what is “addiction” and what is not?

        Further, you comment is nonsensical. Sure, the PATIENT doesn’t pay up front, but the patient gets to pay taxes. Of COURSE doctors/hospitals/etc get paid for their work, and of course the books/materials made by WHO generate revenue. It would be insane to think there isn’t money changing hands, inside the USA or outside of it.

        That doesn’t mean I think that the WHO is doing this purely for money, however. I thik they are simply mistaken.

  5. Sigilstone17 on July 8, 2019 at 2:19 pm said

    I’m so glad the WHO is getting into the policy of invading people’s homes, raising their children, and battering down parents (not long before we start seeing articles like: “How letting your child play video games is abuse”) instead of tackling issues that actually threaten mankind like the uncontrolled Ebola currently burning its way across the Congo at a thousand new cases per week.

  6. To much of anything is never a good thing. I mean if you that obsessive over gaming that you forget to eat and poo, than I’d say you have other issues that are going on.

  7. Chemical-mix on July 8, 2019 at 7:42 pm said

    Change the word “gaming” for virtually ANY verb or activity in the English language and you can still apply the definitions that have been set. Sleeping, driving, skating, shopping, jumping, dancing, brick-laying, cardboard-box assembly, speed-typing, cheese-slicing, dog grooming, stone throwing. Will we recognise each and every one of them as a separate, diagnosible condition? Come on now.
    It’s an addiction, and if we start classing addiction as a mental disorder then we may as well start paying for everyone else’s drugs and tobacco.
    I’m openly addicted to gaming. But i’m not mentally ill. I live a normal, productive life. We need to end over-diagnosis of generally-normal human behaviour.

  8. earthmanbrick on July 9, 2019 at 6:23 am said

    Now all we need is for the WHO to state that ”Gamers are dead/over” in their next article.

    Gaming itself is just a hobby: nothing less; nothing more.

    Unless the WHO also wants to also declare that the following other passtimes are also detremental enough to be considered ”disorders”, then I’m calling ideological bias on this one;

    Fishing,
    Watching TV,
    Reading,
    Cooking,
    Sculpting,
    Hair dressing,
    Painting,
    Collecting,
    Hunting,
    Athletics,
    Sports,
    Working out,
    Walking,
    Performing,
    etc, etc…

    Point is that the WHO wants to declare the ”limits” for such things to give themselves more authority/agency & thus make themselves more relevant than they actually are.

    Most of these ”agencies” & ”independant bodies” are constantly trying to justify their own existence because they do get goverment funding as joint initative projects, yet these same bodies (like the UN) end up creating pointless arbitrary standards, just so they can maintain their influence/funding

  9. Aegon the Conqueror on July 9, 2019 at 9:02 am said

    “Kids do not have a mental disorder from gaming, because of gaming. Instead, they lack parents who have the rightful authority to tell them when they have to stop playing, and instead bend to the will of their children.”

    In the immortal words of Heisenberg, “You’re goddamn right it is!”

  10. WHO is a mental disorder. It is a pandering and activist organisation which has left science fact at the door.

  11. Of course it generates addiction. Anything that releases dopamine in the human brain and creates ZERO value (like reading, writing, any of the arts or sports since you can SEE the evident benefit in your life) can trap a human being into being an addict. The games are not the problem (although many of them are designed to keep you hooked) but the gamer is. It depends why does he game and how does he game. I speak from experience. I’ve struggled with various addictions, one of them being video games and I sure as hell know it can be a very destructive addiction. What baffles me beyond ANY understanding is with the extensive research, data and proof, the WHO still can’t see the obvious pattern with what causes addiction. Love can become an addiction too. The book “Love & Addiction” by Stanton Peele and Archie Brodsky is a milestone on the subject and proves that ANYTHING that generates dopamine, a “sense of achievement”, well being etc can become an addiction. I know gamers feel threaten by this but it really doesn’t change a thing. Unless you’re one of those gamers that breathe and think about video games all day long and generate zero value in their lives. Then, imho it’s a problem. They say it takes 10,000 hours to master any of the arts. I’ve seen gamers brag about having 5k hours of gameplay or more.

    Besides, I’ve seen the forums for games like Dark Souls, MH, where people spent so much time creating builds and master the theorycraft and I’m so amazed at their brains. I can’t understand half of it. I always wonder what would happen if they put their brains to do something else, something that creates actual value.

    I’m not saying it’s wrong to play video games. But there is definitely a problem around this issue and a lot of our young men are being swallowed by them. And as long as there are games where you can platinum them and get that false sense of achievement (or accomplishment), the trap is there and it’s pretty clever.

  12. roguestar42 on July 9, 2019 at 11:44 pm said

    It’s called OCD (Obsessive Compulsive Disorder) and it can be anything from washing your hands constantly to gambling your life savings away in the casinos all day. Yes, there are many variations on this and labels for mental disorders, but at the end of the day, we all have compulsive things in our lives. Many of us just wrestle with eating junk food too much or wasting time bingeing Netflix while others have real compulsive issues. To label gaming, in particular, is ignorant or shows a bias. I agree with this author though, most of these addictions or compulsions can be traced back to people that have never had discipline and structure in their lives.

  13. darkmage0707077 on July 10, 2019 at 7:34 am said

    This is just another form of addiction, plain and simple. Same as being addicted to food, addicted to gambling, etc. It absolutely does NOT need its own separate classification in the WHO’s guidelines. We would need a separate listing for just about every pleasurable thing in existence since they can ALL be classified the same way for the same reasons, which is absolutely absurd and might even make a mental health professional’s job harder instead of easier (consolidation is important, after all).

    On the other hand, there are people who are pre-disposed to addictive tendencies in general who might become addicted to gaming unawares due to its innocuous reputation (“they’re just harmless toys”). As such, I do support the idea of adding gaming alongside the list of other mildly addictive activities (food, TV, gambling, etc) as there is research to suggest it’s similarly addictive to those and people who do need help breaking away should be able to get it (mainly adults; kids should have their guardians to help, as described above).

  14. Sc4reCrow on July 11, 2019 at 4:24 pm said

    Gaming has addictive traits. This isn’t news.
    Someone who is addicted to something can tend to ignore other more important things in their life.

    If too much gaming is a “disorder” then anything can become a disorder.

  15. Excellent article! Just a quick note that I spotted a minor typo; there’s an “it’s” in there that’s possessive and should be “its,” sans apostrophe. Get that faux pas out of the article before the W.H.O sees!

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