In the newest edition of the International Classification of Diseases, the World Health Organization (WHO) declared video gaming can become an addiction.

The proposal came from Dr. Vladimir Pozy, a member of the Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse through the organization.

According to WHO online, gaming (video-gaming or digital-gaming) disorder is characterized by three behaviors:

  • impaired control over gaming
  • increasing priority given to gaming over other activities to the extent that gaming takes precedence over other interests and daily activities
  • continuation or escalation of gaming despite the occurrence of negative consequences

WHO indicates for a diagnosis, the behavior must present severity in nearly all forms of a person’s daily activities and have been evident over the course of year.

In an interview with CNN, Poznyak differentiated between the actual diagnostic criteria of those who are enthused about playing versus those that actually suffer from a disorder. “It cannot be just an episode of few hours or few days,” he said. “Millions of gamers around the world, even when it comes to the intense gaming, would never qualify as people suffering from gaming disorder.”

In a similar fashion to a gambling addiction, video game addiction follows the same patterns of behavior as substance abuse, just without a psychoactive substance. Therefore, one of the best ways to diagnose and treat the problem is with cognitive-behavioral therapy.

Hilarie Cash is the co-founder of reSTART, an inpatient treatment program in the United States aimed at addressing video gaming disorder and one of the first of its kinds. She believes it is now time for people to begin accepting the propensity for video game addiction.

Experts in the field of addiction and mental health are starting to experiment with the idea that gaming is an addiction, though the implementation is slow. The Diagnostic Statistical Manual lists Internet Gaming Disorder (IGD) as a “potential” mental disorder in its fifth publication (DSM-IV).

A lack of additional research has not allowed it to be thoroughly vetted into the main manual. However, imaging studies have indicated the same brain regions of those addicted to gambling or drug use correspond to those with a propensity for gaming addiction.

Though the classification has caused some experts to disagree with WHO’s rush to include gaming as a disorder, Poznyak firmly believes in his assessment and classification. WHO hopes the controversial addition will help stimulate further research into the area.