The World Health Organization earlier this month officially recognized video game addiction as a mental disorder in its latest International Classification of Diseases.
To qualify for the “gaming disorder” diagnosis, a person must exhibit at least five out of nine symptoms, such as deceiving others to keep playing and using video games as an escape. The symptoms must persist for at least a year and result “in significant impairment in personal, family, social, educational, occupational or other important areas of functioning.”
Researchers said brain patterns of internet gaming addicts resembled those of drug or alcohol abusers. The WHO said the new classification will help provide increased awareness and medical help for people with internet gaming disorder.
Other counselors and psychologists disagree with the classification: They say risking friendships and work is different than giving up recreational activities.
“All passionate interests are at risk for redefinition as mental disorders,” Allen Frances, chairman of the task force that created the fourth edition of the psychiatric Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, wrote in a blog post for The Huffington Post. He asked if video game addiction is classified as a mental disorder, what keeps someone who is passionate about exercise, work, hobbies, or spending time with friends from being labeled as mentally ill?
Andrew Rogers, a board member of the Association of Certified Biblical Counselors, said addicts use both substance and behavioral addictions to fulfill desires, noting that the object is different, but the symptoms are similar. Rogers pointed out that the Apostle Paul taught that Christians are free to enjoy things but should not be mastered by them to the point that they neglect more important matters. Whether someone is addicted to video games or alcohol or even walking a dog, he noted, the problem begins in the heart. —Charissa Crotts