Video game addiction now an illness says World Health Organisation with conflicting treatments available

In a development that might worry parents, the World Health Organisation (WHO) has now classified videogame addiction as an official illness.

But the message is very much don’t panic, it’s not an epidemic – it’s a pathological disorder – published in the 11th revision of their International Classification of Diseases book.

The gaming disorder refers to people whose lives have been consumed by videogames to the point where their health is in jeopardy.

UK Addiction Treatment (UKAT) – an organisation that have offered private therapy centres for gaming addiction alongside drugs and alcohol rehabilitation – conduct an abstinence based policy across the board, an approach to treatment where one size fits all.

Claire Havey, UKAT Head of Communications, said: “Something in their lives has gone very wrong for them, they’re almost putting a plaster on an open wound and whether that plaster is gaming 18 hours a day or whether that plaster is injecting heroine: the wound is still there. They will carry on doing that and re-applying the plaster until [they believe] that wound is healed.”

The abstinence treatment extends to mobile technology. They are only allowed access to a smart phone one hour a day after completing the initial assessments and treatments. This hour is closely monitored by therapists to ensure they don’t play games.

However, Stockport based psychotherapist Barbara Wallace believes that an abstinence lead treatment can ultimately be more damaging for a patient’s long-term health.

She said: “They might have withdrawal symptoms. So depending on the person, we’d have a plan of action to ween the person off gradually or to just abstain.

“I’d look at what impact that is going to have on them. We wouldn’t know what the particular withdrawal symptoms were going to be.”

Comparing it to her treatment of sex addiction, she stated that patients would usually want to return to a healthy sexual relationship post treatment and the same applies to gaming addicts.

Wallace proposed a plan where patients cut the gaming time down and worked in healthier activities alongside it.

She said: “If you take away a coping mechanism, you might be setting them up to fail – if you think about it, drug addicts get methadone.”

Ultimately, both courses of treatment target the addict’s compulsion to receive the dopamine fix that gaming provides – examining their triggers.

Setting up the patient for life post-treatment is where the opposing treatment methods come in to contention.

Related Articles