‘Excessive gaming’ a mental disorder!

The World Health Organisation, by middle of this year, will formally recognise addiction to video games as a psychological illness

By Author  |  Published: 8th Jan 2018  12:11 am

Hyderabad: For years, experts in public health have been trying hard to highlight this issue! On their part, recognising that children were becoming couch potatoes and even fearing the worst, parents and academicians did their best to divert attention of children and somehow peel them away from hand-held gaming consoles and internet gaming. It now turns out that all of their fears were right and addiction to video games is indeed a mental health condition. This means, excessive gaming will now be considered as a psychological illness and will have standard clinical treatment and diagnostic protocols.

The World Health Organisation (WHO), by middle of this year, will formally recognise addiction to video games as a Gaming Disorder. The WHO’s decision has been welcomed by many, especially by mental health experts, who have been advocating the ill effects of excessive video gaming for a long time. The draft report of the 11th International Classification of Diseases (ICD-11) of the WHO has defined Gaming Disorder as a pattern characterised by 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.

Why gaming is considered as a disorder now?

According to WHO, the decision to include gaming disorder in the ICD-11 was based on reviews of available evidence and reflects a consensus of experts from different disciplines involved in the process of technical consultations undertaken by WHO in the process of developing ICD 11.

When does it becomes a disorder?

Not all gaming can be classified as disorders because there are games that help in cognitive development of the brain, forces individual to strategise, plan and coordinate. There are numerous instances of improved hand and eye co-ordination among individuals who are frequent gamers. According to public health experts, there are studies that have indicated only a small proportion of people who engage in digital or video-gaming activities. According to WHO, people who partake in gaming should alert to the amount of time they spend on gaming activities. “Particularly when it is to the exclusion of other daily activities, as well as to any changes in their physical or psychological health and social functioning that could be attributed to their pattern of gaming behaviour,” says WHO.

What is International Classification of Diseases (ICD)?

The International Classification of Diseases (ICD) is the basis for identification of health trends and statistics globally and the international standard for reporting diseases and health conditions. It is used by medical practitioners around the world to diagnose conditions and by researchers to categorise conditions. The inclusion of a disorder in ICD is a consideration which countries take into account when planning public health strategies and monitoring trends of disorders. WHO is working on updating the ICD and the 11th revision of the International Classification of Diseases (ICD-11) is scheduled for publication in mid-2018.

Symptoms

  • Excessive gaming will be considered as an illness
  • Gaming addict’s life is completely disrupted
  • Their professional and personal life totally messed-up
  • Children start under performing in school exams
  • Lack of proper sleep and no interest in personal grooming
  • No interest in food and relationships

Limit access to internet, says expert

Head, Department of Psychiatry, Kakatiya Medical College, Warangal, Dr. S R R Y Srinivas, who has done extensive study on impact of video games on children in Hyderabad, firmly believes that gaming has become an obsession for youngsters. Talking to Telangana Today, the senior psychiatrist fields vital questions on Gaming Disorder:

On growing interests towards gaming:

Gaming has become an obsession for most youngsters in urban cities. Games on hand held-devices and internet provide instant gratification, which is the reason why children fall prey easily. Once you win a level in a game, you get immediate rewards or gratification. When compared to a classroom, video games are far more attractive and they directly stimulate the pleasure centres of the brain, making children susceptible.

How does gaming impact education?

Typically, after a class or school, children will start playing video games. So, effectively, there is no consolidation of memory in the brain after the teacher’s lesson in the class room. Usually, the lesson needs time to get registered in the mind and later consolidation occurs. Due to interference, there is hardly any time for consolidation. Till a few years ago, when we used to listen to the teacher in the classroom, it used to get registered and consolidated in our brains. However, this is not the case anymore because of video games.

How harmful is internet gaming?

I would urge parents to think twice before giving their children access to internet. Even if they are given access to educational materials in the internet, there is always a danger of attractive ‘pop-ups’ that distract the minds of children. If children accidentally click on the pop-up, then they end-up in web pages that they are not equipped to deal with. Gradually, such pop-ups become a curiosity and quickly mature into an obsession.

What parents can do?

It’s always better to encourage children to take up outdoor sports at the earliest. Make it a point to limit access to internet and add more filters meant to regulate internet for children. There are many countries that have banned access to internet for children below 15 years. Also, look out for indicators like change in personality, lack of interest in socialisation and a dip in interpersonal relationships.


Row over gaming disorder:

Is gaming a disorder or is a symptom of other mental health ailments? While the WHO is set to declare Gaming Disorder as an exclusive ailment that has to be dealt with separately, senior psychiatrists and psychologists are quite divided over the issue. They argue that instead of adding a disease to the ever-increasing list, gaming could have been classified as a vital symptom of a sub-type of clinical conditions like Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD).

Quite often, doctors point out that because of a medical condition like depression, OCD, anxiety and even mania, people take to gaming in a big way. After a while, the habit of playing video games become an obsession and eventually becomes an OCD.

Fact Check

  • Worldwide, close to 8 lakh people die due to suicides every year
  • Suicide is the second leading cause of death in 15-29-years age group
  • Depressed patients have 3 times more chances of developing a heart attack
  • NIMHANS study says that 1 in 20 Indians suffer from some form of depression
  • 18 per cent of adolescents in India suffer from depression
  • In 2016, close to 10.6 lakh additional prescriptions to treat depression were written
  • Doctors wrote 3.46 crore new prescriptions for depression in 2016