Should you be as worried about “gaming disorder” as the World Health Organization is?


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While virtual reality may seem like the brilliant tool you’ve been dreaming about—one that could shake up your at-home workouts (VR spin bike on a Pegasus? Sign me up!)—pump the breaks for a second: A slew of addictive tendencies toward your VirZOOM, Xbox, PlayStation, etc., could mean you have a “gaming disorder,” an IRL affliction that the World Health Organization (WHO) officially recognizes, according to its just-released International Classification of Diseases (ICD-11).

“Being in the ICD-11 will mean that it will officially become a health condition, a diagnosis that can be used by doctors, other health-care workers, and insurance companies,” Bruce Y. Lee, MD, an associate professor of international health at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health wrote in Forbes in December of last year.

The ICD-11 stipulates that “gaming disorder” can manifest itself either online or offline in an individual’s lack of control over gaming, prioritization of gaming over other daily activities, and continual interest in gaming, regardless of its negative consequences.

“[Gaming disorder] will officially become a health condition, a diagnosis that can be used by doctors, other health-care workers, and insurance companies.” —Dr. Bruce Y. Lee, professor of international health

But before you proceed to self-diagnose, keep in mind that just because you take pleasure in gaming, or use forms of it for the latest exercise trend or even shopping, it doesn’t mean you suffer from a mental disorder. The WHO points out that past studies have suggested that only a small percentage of gamers actually present the signs of gaming disorder. And Daphne Bavelier, PhD, a professor at the University of Geneva, describes in her TED Talk how video games are potentially powerful tools that can improve improve hand-eye coordination, relieve stress, and connect people.

In a somewhat, er, graphic example, Dr. Lee explained that context is what separates an everyday gamer from one who develops a gaming disorder. “Using a toilet plunger to unclog a toilet and avoid a poo spill is a life-helping activity,” he wrote. “Using a toilet plunger whenever you see a toilet, even while someone else is sitting on the toilet, is a life and relationship damaging activity.”

Need he say more?

Originally published January 5, 2018; updated June 19, 2018. 

Invest in a chic pair of blue-light-blocking glasses for all your gaming endeavors, or take a breather with an all-out digital detox

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