Beware Gamers! Playing video games obsessively could be classified as a mental health disorder from 2018, once the World Health Organization (WHO) goes ahead with proposed changes and updates to its diagnostic manual.

The World Health Organization is all set to include “gaming disorder” in its International Classification of Diseases (ICD) for the very first time. The ICD is used by more than 100 countries. The latest version of the manual, last updated in 1990, will be published in May next year.

After the addition of “gaming disorder” to the ICD, WHO will make the health condition an official diagnosis that can be used by healthcare workers, including doctors, WHO spokesman Gregory Hartl told CNN.

ICD-11, the draft of the latest version of manual has been posted online lists gaming disorder among “disorders due to addictive behaviors”. Listings also include the conditions medical personnel can use to decide if a gamer’s behavior can be described as a mental health disorder.

“Gaming disorder is characterised by a pattern of persistent or recurrent gaming behaviour (‘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 draft states.

Such behavior can be classified as a disorder if it is of “sufficient severity to result in significant impairment in personal, family, social, educational, occupational or other important areas of functioning”.

The 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,” it added.

Hartl believed the new ICD-11 entry on gaming disorder “includes only a clinical description and not prevention and treatment options”.

“Inclusion of a disorder in ICD is a consideration which countries take into account when making decisions on the provision of healthcare and allocation of resources for prevention, treatment, and rehabilitation,” he said.

He described the ICD as the “basis for identification of health trends and statistics globally and the international standard for reporting diseases and health conditions” that is used by medical practitioners around the world to diagnose conditions.

The list also focuses to promote the sharing and comparing of health information between hospitals, regions, and countries. Public health experts also use the ICD to track the number of deaths and diseases.

Vladimir Poznyak, a member of WHO’s Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse, said health professionals need to recognize that gaming disorder may have “serious health consequences”.

“Most people who play video games don’t have a disorder, just like most people who drink alcohol don’t have a disorder either. However, in certain circumstances overuse can lead to adverse effects,” Poznyak was quoted as saying by the Independent.

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