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MUMBAI: Addiction to video games is officially a mental health condition now. World Health Organization (WHO) has listed gaming disorder as a mental illness, putting it parallel to alcohol and drug abuse, in the revised International Classification of Diseases (ICD) released on Monday.

It defined gaming disorder as a pattern of persistent gaming behavior where as an individual has impaired control over the onset, frequency or duration of play.

However not every gamer is an addict. The obsessive pattern should be evident through a period of 12 months during which the individual's personal, social, educational occupational or other important areas of functioning is severely affected because of the activity.


"When gaming interferes with eating, sleeping, work and other functions, it becomes a disease", said Dr. Shekhar Sexena, Director Department of mental health and substance abuse, WHO, told TOI.

WHO experts said the recognition of gaming as a harmful behavior was based on evidence collected over a decade from countries world over. "There is evidence to show it causes disability and can have serious public health repercussions. It inclusion in the ICD would pave way for doctors to diagnose and treat it better, while government can use it to develop public health strategies to tackle it," Dr. Shekher Saxena, Director  Department for mental health and substance abuse, WHO, told TOI. "But it's crucial to remember that it affects only a small percentage of gamers," he added.


Experts says WHO's inclusion may come as a boon for addicts in India that has only three prominent clinics to treat the condition currently. Of this, the two big clinics at Nimhans in Bengaluru and AIIMS in New Delhi cater to nearly 30 cases a month and we are witnessing a growing demand. "There were hardly any patients when we started the first clinic in 2014 but now the number are rising with growing awareness," said Dr. Manoj Kumar Sharma, coordinator of Services for Healthy use of Technology  (SHUT) clinic at  Nimhans. Welcoming WHO's decision, he said it would bring more acceptance even among the victims that they have a disease and help is available.



Sunita Rao R I TNN IJune 21,2018,10:16 IST


BENGALURU: Rahul (name changed), a fourteen year boy from east Bengaluru, would be least bothered about what his parents wanted him to do. He would lock himself up in a room and get hooked to the digital world, playing games for over 10 hours a day. Bored of one game in a couple of months, He would quickly switch to another. Today Rahul is undergoing counseling and therapy at Services for Healthy use of Technology (SHUT) clinic at National Institute of Mental Health and Neurosciences (NIMHANS).

While the World Health Organization has declared Gaming Addiction a mental Disorder, Nimhans sees no less than 6 children (aged 14 - 20years) a week seeking help at SHUT.

Dr. Manoj Sharma, professor of clinical psychology, who heads SHUT clinic, says gaming addiction is a vicious circle. What begins as mere entertainment ends up in addiction, while some children getting used to the screen for 10 - 12 hours day. This severely affects their sleep cycle, food intake, studies and interpersonal communications, says Dr. Sharma.

"Of late, we are also getting cases from different states. Gaming addiction appears to be a growing trend. Addicted students take the virtual world to be real and cannot tolerate anyone questioning them. There multi players online games where users don't know one another and are from different countries. They feel associated to this virtual family in the process. Constant engagement, counseling, encouragement in physical activities are all part of the therapy," adds Dr. Sharma. While the clinic has only seven girl children in last three years, Dr. Sharma says girls might be equally addicted to gaming but they are not always brought for counseling and therapy, unlike boys.



According to Dakshayani Kanna, principal, Harvest International School, many parents start exposing kids to screen while feeding them and that grows into addiction. "If parents control this for a couple of months, the problem gets solved. We tell parents that supervised screening is better", she adds.


TNN I Updated: Jun 19, 2018, 14:IST

The World Health Organization has confirmed what parents have long suspected - compulsive video gaming is a mental health condition. In fact, the UN health agency has included this in the latest revision to a disease classification manual. It now classifies spending too much time playing video games as "gaming disorder" a separate addiction.

Though 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 gamer believed to be affected, the classification will help government, families and health care workers be more vigilant and prepared to identify the risk.

Currently, there are 2.2 billion active video gamer in the world and the number is expected to grow.


According to WHO, Gaming disorder is characterized by pattern of behavior where an individual gives priority to gaming over essential daily activities, has no or little control over gaming time and continue gaming despite negative consequences.



Craving - continuous desire to indulge in gaming.

Control - no control, finds it impossible to stop.

Coping - using gaming as a way to cope with personal and social issues.

Compulsion - unable to take interest in any other activity.

Consequences - continues despite poor performance in academics, physical problem such as eyes strain& neck problem, and/or psychological issues such as irritability and anger outburst.



WHO says disorder affects a minuscule percentage of gamer. It's an addiction when it affects personal, family, social and other areas of functioning.

Moreover the addiction should be evident for at least one year for a person to be diagnosed with disorder.



Look for signs such as sleep deprivation, dip in academics performance

Don't abruptly block access; talk, find out why child is so interested in gaming.

Seek professional help including counseling.

Has high chances of relapse, so show patience.

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Posted By : Sumitra Debroy.I TNN I Jun 19, 2018,03:44 IST | Date : 17-09-2018