The World Health Organisation says that compulsively playing video games now qualifies as a new mental health condition.
But some critics warn the move by the UN health agency could risk stigmatising young people who enjoying gaming.
In its latest revision to an international disease classification manual, the agency said today that classifying “gaming disorder” as a separate condition will “serve a public health purpose for countries to be better prepared to identify this issue.”
Earlier this month a nine-year-old girl in the UK was referred for rehabilitation after becoming to the game ‘Fortnite’ to the extent that she was sitting on a urine-soaked chair as she would refuse to leave her screen.
Dr Shekhar Saxena, director of WHO’s department for mental health, estimated the condition affected two-three per cent of gamers
The disorder is characterised by behaviours such as losing control of the time spent playing and prioritising gaming above other activities which negatively impacts on areas in a player’s life such as education, employment and relationships.
Dr Joan Harvey, a spokeswoman for the British Psychological Society, warned the new designation might cause unnecessary concern among parents and said only a minority of gamers would be affected.
“People need to understand this doesn’t mean every child who spends hours in their room playing games is an addict, otherwise medics are going to be flooded with request for help.”
Other welcomed the new classification, saying it was critical to identify video game addicts quickly because they are usually teenagers or young adults who do not seek help themselves..
“We come across parents who are distraught , not only because they’re seeing their child drop out of school, but because they’re seeing an entire family structure fall apart,” said Dr Henrietta Bowden-Jones, a spokeswoman for behavioural addictions at the Royal College of Psychiatrists.
Games industry bodies including UK Interactive Entertainment (Ukie) and the US Entertainment Software Association have questioned the research and the classification.
Jo Twist, Ukie’s chief executive, said: “We are very concerned about the inconclusive nature of the research and the evidence that WHO is using to base this potential classification on.”