The Implications of Gaming Disorder being classified in the ICD-11

According to the World Health Organization, Gaming Disorder is defined in the draft 11th Revision of the International Classification of Diseases (ICD-11) as a pattern of gaming behavior (“digital-gaming” or “video-gaming”) characterized 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.
For gaming disorder to be diagnosed, the behavior pattern must be of sufficient severity to result in significant impairment in personal, family, social, educational, occupational or other important areas of functioning and would normally have been evident for at least 12 months.

DSM Future Editions

Now that WHO has endorsed Gaming Disorder, it places increased pressure on the American Psychiatric Association to include the condition in future revisions of the DSM. Internet Gaming Disorder is included in the DSM-5 but only as a condition for further study. Among international researchers, the US has been lagging-behind what other countries such as China, Korea, and Taiwan have already acknowledged that Internet gaming is considered addictive.
In addition to generating research, the WHO hopes that ICD-11’s Gaming Disorder definition will give mental health professionals the support they need to describe the issue to patients and devise treatments. Think of a psychologist seeing patients who exhibit symptoms that could fit with gaming disorder but lacking a firm basis to diagnose it. With ICD-11, that doctor would be able to describe the disorder, relying on a medical standard that bears the imprimatur of the WHO.

Policy Makers

Several countries, including South Korea, have established mental health facilities for treating Gaming Disorder. American policy makers should similarly take this issue seriously and dedicate resources for education, prevention, and treatment of the condition. Policy is also necessary to enhance research efforts on this condition, including large scale studies to evaluate the natural course of the condition. The National Institutes of Health has no dedicated institute or funding for this condition, and until it does, it is unlikely that research will progress at the necessary pace to develop evidence-based treatments.


Schools at all levels should routinely include education about Gaming Disorder and expand the infrastructure they have in place for other potentially problematic behaviors (drugs, alcohol, risky sex, gambling, etc.) to include problems with electronic media. Because of the consistent link between gaming disorders and poor school performance, schools may be an excellent place for screening for Gaming Disorder and for providing referrals for services when problems with gaming or related issues are uncovered.

Many schools provide computers and/or encourage computer use in and out of classes, as this can have tremendous educational and practical benefit. Many schools consider “gamifying” their educational processes. What message does it send if a school supports gaming as education, in light of the real potential for the development of Gaming Disorder? Schools should provide training to parents and educators to recognize potential problems. Schools and community centers can be of particular value in helping parents to identify nongaming creative opportunities.
In general, the new classification of Gaming Disorder in the ICD-11 has several implications. Studies suggest that Gaming Disorder affects only a small proportion of people who engage in digital- or video-gaming activities. However, people who partake in gaming should be alert to the amount of time they spend on gaming activities, particularly when it is to the exclusion of other daily activities, as well as to any changes in their physical or psychological health and social functioning that could be attributed to their pattern of gaming behavior.