Gaming addiction now recognised by World Health Organisation

Gaming addiction now recognised by World Health Organisation

Gaming is a hobby enjoyed by billions of people all over the world and, despite what you may see in the media, for the vast majority of people it is a harmless pastime. However, in some cases gaming can become more than just a hobby, and the World Health Organisation (WHO) has now recognised gaming addiction as a distinct mental health disorder.

According to their new classification, gaming addiction features three characteristics:
  • impared control over gaming (in terms of frequency, duration, intensity, etc)
  • prioritising gaming over other interests and activities, and
  • continuation or escalation of gaming despite negative consequences.
The definition applies to both online and offline gaming, and it falls within the same category as gambling addiction ('Disorders due to addictive behaviours') as they are both addictions that form as a result of 'repetitive rewarding behaviours'.

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Certain game features seem to be more likely to be linked to gaming addiction. Social aspects of gaming and rewards from achievements have both been linked to a higher incidence of addiction in recent studies.

So how do you know if you're gaming too much?

Most people really enjoy gaming, it's a fun hobby and can be very rewarding too. There can be a fine line between obsession and addiction. However if the amount of time you are devoting to it starts to affect your work, relationships (whether they be with friends, family, or your significant other) or other aspects of your life then it may be time to consider whether it is time to take a step back.

If you're not sure, then consider how you would feel if you couldn't game for a week. Would it be a mild annoyance, just like the removal of any enjoyable hobby, or would be more than that? Can you cut back on the amount of time you spend gaming, or would that be too difficult? Do you ever hide the extent of your gaming from other people?

If you think you may have an addiction then it is always best to speak to someone about it - whether that be your doctor or an organisation that specialises in helping people with addictions.
Becky Cunningham
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