Gaming addiction classified as mental health disorder by WHO

Parents are being advised to limit their children’s screen time. (Shutterstock)
Updated 05 July 2018

Gaming addiction classified as mental health disorder by WHO

  • Addiction to video games has been recognized by World Health Organization as a mental health disorder
  • The International Classification of Diseases now covers 55,000 injuries, diseases and causes of death

GENEVA: Obsessive video gamers know how to anticipate dangers in virtual worlds. The World Health Organization says they now should be on guard for a danger in the real world: spending too much time playing.
In its latest revision to a disease classification manual, the UN health agency said Monday that compulsively playing video games now qualifies as a mental health condition. The statement confirmed the fears of some parents but led critics to warn that it may risk stigmatizing too many young video players.
WHO said classifying “gaming disorder” as a separate addiction will help governments, families and health care workers be more vigilant and prepared to identify the risks. The agency and other experts were quick to note that cases of the condition are still very rare, with no more than up to 3 percent of all gamers believed to be affected.
Dr. Shekhar Saxena, director of WHO’s department for mental health and substance abuse, said the agency accepted the proposal that gaming disorder should be listed as a new problem based on scientific evidence, in addition to “the need and the demand for treatment in many parts of the world.”
Dr. Joan Harvey, a spokeswoman for the British Psychological Society, warned that the new designation might cause unnecessary concern among parents.
“People need to understand this doesn’t mean every child who spends hours in their room playing games is an addict, otherwise medics are going to be flooded with requests for help,” she said.
Others welcomed WHO’s new classification, saying it was critical to identify people hooked on video games quickly because they are usually teenagers or young adults who don’t seek help themselves.
“We come across parents who are distraught, not only because they’re seeing their child drop out of school, but because they’re seeing an entire family structure fall apart,” said Dr. Henrietta Bowden-Jones, a spokeswoman for behavioral addictions at Britain’s Royal College of Psychiatrists. She was not connected to WHO’s decision.
Bowden-Jones said gaming addictions were usually best treated with psychological therapies but that some medicines might also work.
The American Psychiatric Association has not yet deemed gaming disorder to be a new mental health problem. In a 2013 statement, the association said it’s “a condition warranting more clinical research and experience before it might be considered for inclusion” in its own diagnostic manual.
The group noted that much of the scientific literature about compulsive gamers is based on evidence from young men in Asia.
“The studies suggest that when these individuals are engrossed in Internet games, certain pathways in their brains are triggered in the same direct and intense way that a drug addict’s brain is affected by a particular substance,” the association said in that statement. “The gaming prompts a neurological response that influences feelings of pleasure and reward, and the result, in the extreme, is manifested as addictive behavior.”
Dr. Mark Griffiths, who has been researching the concept of video gaming disorder for 30 years, said the new classification would help legitimize the problem and strengthen treatment strategies.
“Video gaming is like a non-financial kind of gambling from a psychological point of view,” said Griffiths, a distinguished professor of behavioral addiction at Nottingham Trent University. “Gamblers use money as a way of keeping score whereas gamers use points.”
He guessed that the percentage of video game players with a compulsive problem was likely to be extremely small — much less than 1 percent — and that many such people would likely have other underlying problems, like depression, bipolar disorder or autism.
WHO’s Saxena, however, estimated that 2 to 3 percent of gamers might be affected.
Griffiths said playing video games, for the vast majority of people, is more about entertainment and novelty, citing the overwhelming popularity of games like “Pokemon Go.”
“You have these short, obsessive bursts and yes, people are playing a lot, but it’s not an addiction,” he said.
Saxena said parents and friends of video game enthusiasts should still be mindful of a potentially harmful problem.
“Be on the lookout,” he said, noting that concerns should be raised if the gaming habit appears to be taking over.
“If (video games) are interfering with the expected functions of the person — whether it is studies, whether it’s socialization, whether it’s work — then you need to be cautious and perhaps seek help,” he said.


Baby Talk: How to deal with fears of first time parents

Updated 09 December 2019

Baby Talk: How to deal with fears of first time parents

  • Babies are totally dependent on their parents and care-givers for all their needs
  • Learning is on the job, but you can be prepared

DUBAI: It is natural for a first time mom (and dad) to have fears and worries about the responsibility of their brand new little baby. Babies are tiny, they are vulnerable, and they are totally dependent on their parents and care-givers for all their needs. This can seem overwhelming, and as each baby is different, it is not possible to provide a text-book of answers with each new arrival. Learning is on the job, but you can be prepared.

Common worries of first time parents:

  • Recognizing your baby’s cries

At first your baby’s cries may sound similar to you but soon you will learn to recognize the difference between a hungry cry for feed, a cry of discomfort for a diaper change or other discomfort, or a more serious discomfort such as colic or something else. An unusually high pitched cry can mean illness. You will soon not only know what your baby wants but also recognize your baby’s cry among other babies.

  • Going out of the home with your baby

It can be scary leaving the house for the first time with your new baby; the outside world can seem hazardous and contact with other people give risk to sources of infection. It is perfectly natural to feel this way but important to remember that the benefits or getting out and about with your baby will outweigh the risk with planning and preparation. Take sensible precautions with safety when you are out and ensure you have everything with you that you need including a cell phone for emergencies. Strangers may wish to admire your baby but it is reasonable to not allow others outside immediate family and friends handle your baby. Keep your first trips out short until you feel more comfortable and take someone with you if that helps you build confidence.

(Shutterstock)
  • Waking your sleeping baby

New parents are often frightened to make a noise during their baby’s nap times in case they wake. Naturally you have finally got your baby to sleep and will not want to wake them. It is best to carry out general house chores and conversations as usual because babies are used to noise from within the womb. Background noise of TV, vacuum cleaner, chatting or fans should not be avoided and your baby will become accustomed to sleeping through such noise. Loud and sudden noises will wake a sleeping baby but they should not wake because of usual household noise and there is certainly no need to tiptoe around a sleeping baby.

  • Putting baby down to sleep while they are crying

It is emotionally hard to put your baby in their crib whilst they are crying, particularly if they double their efforts as soon as you have laid them down. However it is also not idea to be in a situation where you cannot put your baby down to sleep for hours whilst you rock and sooth them, exhausting yourself and also possibly your baby. Babies can become overtired and if you have taken care of feeding, changing and winding and your baby is still fussing and crying they may need to sleep and will soon settle if you allow them to cry on their own a short while. The more used a baby is to settling themselves the better for baby and parents. Be brave and try to leave them briefly whilst close at hand and see if they settle by themselves. It is not wise to leave a baby to cry for too long and always seek medical advice if you have any concerns.

  • Handing over the baby care

One of the hardest things for a new mom to do is hand her baby over to another to care for in her absence, sometimes even if the person is her husband and she is only gone for a short time. This is natural and does not mean that you do not trust the person it means that you are programmed to be present for your baby at all times! However it is very important in modern society that you are able to leave your baby with your partner, trusted family members and friends. It is important that your baby leans to be soothed by others than yourself. It will become easier with time. Remember it is not important that your baby is wearing the outfit you would have chosen or if things have not been tidied away like you would have done, the important things is that you were able to have time away from your baby and that your baby is safe on your return.

This article was first published on babyarabia.com.