In the 11th Revision of the International Classification of Diseases (ICD-11), the World Health Organisation classified gaming disorder as an official mental health condition.
Also known as gaming addiction, WHO define gaming disorder as a “pattern of gaming behaviour 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, and continuation or escalation of gaming despite the occurrence of negative consequences.”
Shekhar Saxena, Director for the Department for Mental Health and Substance Abuse at the World Health Organisation, said: “We are also suggesting to member states as to what needs to be done, which is to be able to identify this disorder reliably [and] to provide preventative measures and treatment measures when it is needed.”
WHO state that for gaming disorder to be diagnosed, “the behaviour pattern must be of sufficient severity to result in significant impairment in personal, family, social, educational, occupational or other important areas of functioning.” This would typically be evident for at least 12 months.
In response to WHO’s announcement on gaming disorder, UKAT have been called upon by national and international media outlets to provide information and advice, including gaming addiction treatment options.
Dr Mateen Durrani, Group Psychiatrist at UKAT, described to The Sun what to look out for in terms of symptoms of gaming addiction. Warning signs include obsessive behaviour, physical health problems, diminished self-care and self-imposed isolation. “The user will have lost their power of choice,” Dr Durrani said.
In the Huffington Post, Dr Durrani advised parents to tackle the issue as soon as possible, if they suspect their child has developed gaming addiction. “Early intervention in children could result in a health, moderated use of online games in the future,” he said.
Eytan Alexander, the founder and CEO of UKAT, told the Telegraph about the increase in enquiries about treatment for gaming addiction. Today, UKAT receives an average of two enquiries each week about gaming disorder, compared to virtually none five years ago.
Responding to the news that the NHS is to open the first internet addiction clinic, including providing treatment for gaming disorder, Eytan Alexander commented in the Guardian that whilst he welcomed the news, the priority for NHS budgets should remain on treating addiction more generally.
Matthew Preece, UKAT senior therapist, told the Guardian about treatment techniques and therapies for gaming disorder. These include dialectical behavioural therapy (DBT), exercises to manage compulsive behaviours and processes to overcome difficulties with emotional expression or communication. He also described how to spot when a gaming hobby turns into gaming addiction, with the individual suffering detrimental impacts on their relationships, work or self-care.
At our addiction treatment centres, UKAT treat gaming addiction the same as we treat other process addictions like gambling or sex and love addiction.
Firstly, we assess the severity of the addiction based on a thorough assessment of observable signs and symptoms. This can include the client’s own description of their thoughts, behaviours and compulsions connected to gaming. If permission is given, we can also speak with family members or close friends about their observations.
If gaming disorder is diagnosed, UKAT treatment managers and therapists devise individual treatment plans, to help gaming addicts understand their addictive triggers and behaviours. Whilst our clients are in treatment, we work closely with them to identify the harms their addiction to gaming is causing them and others. We use a range of therapeutic techniques to address why gaming addicts would prefer to live in an unreal world, often in complete isolation for hours or days at a time. As with other addictions we treat at UKAT, we aim for abstinence as the end goal – in order to fully recover from gaming disorder.
There may also be co-existing addictions, including alcohol or drugs or compulsive behaviours with food, for example – these would be identified during the assessment we carry out before their rehabilitation programme begins. Our treatment plans would address all the issues our clients present with, in order to maximise the effectiveness of our treatment approach.
For more information, see the UKAT gaming addiction web page. To inquire about treatment for gaming addiction and/or any other substance or process addiction, call 0808 274 0903 or email firstname.lastname@example.org or use the live chat or call back request on our website.