Five Things to Know About Gaming Disorder

Person playing video games with a headset as an illustration of gaming disorder.

Video games have grown tremendously over the past 40 years, both in design and in popularity. Children and adolescents make up a large percentage of the population playing video games, but recent research shows there may be some negative consequences in playing too much.

Gene Beresin, MD, executive director of the Clay Center for Young Healthy Minds at Massachusetts General Hospital, recently wrote an article about gaming disorder, which was recently officially added to the 11th edition of the International Classification of Diseases (ICD) by the World Health Organization (WHO).

Here are five things to know:

What is gaming disorder?

number 1

Gaming disorder is defined as a pattern of gaming behavior where gaming takes an increasing priority over other daily activities and interests. Individuals with this disorder may also have a hard time controlling their gaming habits and may continue despite negative consequences.

How is it diagnosed?

number 2

In order to be diagnosed with gaming disorder, gaming patterns must be severe enough to negatively impact family, social, educational and personal aspects of life for at least 12 months.

How common is gaming disorder?

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Research on the extent of this disorder is still emerging, but studies suggest rates can range anywhere from 1-9% of children and adolescents depending on age, country and other factors. Right now it is relatively rare, but there may be risk factors parents and guardians can watch out for.

What are some behaviors to look out for?

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Risk factors include a decline in academic performance, an increasing amount of time spent gaming, limited participation in other activities, lying about time spent gaming and withdrawing from family or friends.

What can parents do?

While Beresin recognizes that gaming disorder is a serious illness, he also notes that the issue may not be so straightforward. It’s possible that the gaming’s interference with normal socializing and school performance could be a sign of another issue like bullying, depression, ADHD or other psychiatric illnesses.

He recommends starting a conversation or playing alongside your child to discuss their interests and point of view with an open mind.

To learn more about gaming disorder and other mental health concerns in children and adolescents, visit the Clay Center for Young Healthy Minds website.

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