In June 2018, the World Health Organization will include gaming disorder in its International Classification of Diseases. While the condition is not that common in Canada and the world, it can be serious when it strikes.
Addiction impairs ability to function
“You could tell that something has become an extreme problem when it’s starting to impair someone’s ability to function in the world—so go to class, go to work, interact with others and also when it impacts their emotional well-being (as in) when they start to feel distressed at the idea of not playing video games, when they start to act differently because of the amount of video games they’re playing, when they start to feel stress while they’re playing…It’s no longer just a fun activity,” says Toronto psychologist and researcher Dominique Morisano.Listen
Morisano says there is not a lot of research on how to treat video game addiction. She tends to treat it the same way as she treats other addictions with harm reduction approaches. This includes what she calls a benefit addition approach where she tries to help patients develop good coping mechanisms for stressors in their lives to try to diminish their desire to spend so much time playing games.
Hopes for better research, diagnosis, treatment
Morisano welcomes the World Health Organization plan to list gaming disorder in its official classification of diseases. She says it legitimizes a problem many people are experiencing. “Anytime something is recognized as officially as a disorder or as a disease…it allows the international community of researchers and clinicians to start to have conversations about the issue at hand and how to best research it, how to best diagnose it and how to best treat it.”
Morisano says the WHO move could increase awareness about the problem and encourage parents to take steps to prevent gaming from becoming a problem. She suggests they start talking to children about gaming early on and that they discuss such things as how much time spent gaming is too much and how to set limits. She also encourages people to seek professional help at the first signs that gaming is becoming a problem.