Gaming Disorder and a new diagnosis?

Gaming Disorder and a new diagnosis?

The World Health Organization (WHO) has added Gaming Disorder to it’s list as a mental health disorder.  Gaming disorder will be included in the the next publication from the organization, under “disorders due to addictive behaviors” label.  This addition to the ICD-11 has caused considerable controversy and even more misunderstanding of what this classification really means to those with the affliction in the United States. The WHO has defined Gaming Disorder as the following:

Gaming disorder is characterized by a pattern of persistent or recurrent gaming behavior (‘digital gaming’ or ‘video-gaming’), which may be online (i.e., over the internet) or offline, manifested by: 1) impaired control over gaming (e.g., onset, frequency, intensity, duration, termination, context); 2) increasing priority given to gaming to the extent that gaming takes precedence over other life interests and daily activities; and 3) continuation or escalation of gaming despite the occurrence of negative consequences. The behavior pattern is of sufficient severity to result in significant impairment in personal, family, social, educational, occupational or other important areas of functioning. The pattern of gaming behavior may be continuous or episodic and recurrent. The gaming behavior and other features are normally evident over a period of at least 12 months in order for a diagnosis to be assigned, although the required duration may be shortened if all diagnostic requirements are met and symptoms are severe.

This all sounds so positive for those families who have struggled dealing with gamers who can not seem to stop, and do not care about the consequences of the behavior. It is helpful to finally put a label on the issue, and be able to seek help. However, this is not yet the case. Traditionally the ICD-10, the manual currently in use, is used for coding of medical bills only in the US. The diagnostic manual used for diagnosing mental health and addictive disorders is the DSM-5. In many cases, the diagnostic codes correlate between the two manuals, but not in this case. Currently, the DSM-5 has classified Internet Gaming Disorder as a condition for further study, NOT as a diagnosis. This diagnosis is only usable if the DSM manual permits it. So, for mental health practitioners, the inclusion of Gaming Disorder offers little help to those who need it. Insurances will not cover treatment of any sort. There is no diagnostic code that can be used by therapists at the current time. Additionally, the criteria by which this would be diagnosed has not been approved by the Diagnostic Statistical Manual for use in the United States. The gaming industry and psychological community have all voiced their concerns with this new update. Some say that the evidence of the disorder’s existence is weak at best.

Observationally, gaming disorder usually occurs concurrently with other mental health disorders, including depressive disorders, ADHD, anxiety and social disorders. Is Gaming Disorder really just a digital age off-shoot and self-medication of distraction and avoidance? Does gaming disorder simply mask a deeper-rooted societal problem?  These questions have yet to be answered. Until then, there will no doubt be an ever increasing field of study into the issue as the internet and streaming industries continue to grow by leaps and bounds. Currently, there are several foundations in development to address this evolving situation, as well as treatment programs that work exclusively with gaming disorders.

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Dr. Robin Barnett, EdD, LCSW, LCADC, CCS, CSAT is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker, Licensed Clinical Alcohol and Drug Counselor, Certified Clinical Supervisor, and Certified Sex Addiction Therapist. She is involved in the fabric of several TV shows, and has appeared on FOX, MTV, CNN, CBS, and NBC. She is currently seen on the Steve Wilkos Show as an Addictions Expert. Her book, “Addict in The House: A No Nonsense Family Guide Through Addiction and Recovery” is the “Go-to” book for thousands of families trapped in this dangerous dysfunction.  Following a successful private practice, Dr. Robin co-founded a highly respected Addictions Treatment Center. She now brings her years of experience and education to the world through her various tv appearances, public speaking, educational and e-therapy services.


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