The WHO’s Interactive Psychiatry Problem [video games and gaming]

The WHO’s Interactive Psychiatry Problem [video games and gaming]

The WHO’s Interactive Psychiatry Problem

The World Health Organization has made “gaming disorder” – a compulsive and sometimes dangerous interaction between people who play video games and their environment – part of the international medication list.

The authors of the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control claim to believe that “gaming disorder”, however, has a close causal relationship to mental illnesses like depression and anxiety, and believe that the related classification will help clinicians deal with patients with this behavior, which is often described as ruining life and death, and is thought to be extremely common among teenagers and adults. The International Council of PTAs (IHP) and the National Association for Electronic Gaming Disorder (NAEGD) condemned the new classification, and representatives from the United States criticized the methods employed by the UN agency.

For those who don’t understand the gaming disorder classification (or don’t understand gaming), it’s a particular type of “spatial pattern disorder” – a classification system designed to find trends in reports from patients. Currently, gaming disorder is listed as a fourth risk factor in the WHO report, next to physical and mental illnesses such as diabetes, alcoholism, and addiction.

What the report does (or doesn’t) reveal

What the WHO report does (or doesn’t) reveal is that there’s surprisingly little research on the specific ways in which the addictive properties of video games can impact people’s lives. It’s interesting to note that the report does note that “a review of 15 studies of online gaming disorder (in both adult and children) showed that some had indicated a lower prevalence of gaming disorder among people over 40 years of age.”

It also notes that “between 2005 and 2015, at least 824 visits to emergency departments were recorded in the UK, Japan, France, Australia, South Korea, Switzerland, and the Netherlands where persistent gaming behaviour was reported.”

And while physicians and researchers in those places do seem to be grappling with the medical ramifications of “gaming disorder”, the United States seems to be giving it short shrift, labeling the report “seriously flawed,” and loudly condeming the WHO for using “secret criteria” to classify the behavior. It claims the behavior has not “been proven as a valid illness” and pointed to the WHO’s belief that video games lead to stress, work problems, and harm to children’s health.

Dr. Robert C. Klitzman, author of Playing Video Games and Their Impact on Children’s Health, said, “The WHO has chosen to stigmatize video games, a pastime hundreds of millions of families enjoy. Every study of gaming disorder suggests that it’s neither a mental disorder nor a risk factor for any serious illness.”

Highlighting an established problem with the entire proposal

Klitzman claims that the WHO’s classification appears to be based on the rather dubious assumption that the behavior is actually a health problem. “Contrary to popular belief, games can’t cure us, or cure a sense of guilt or anxiety, or a state of extreme loneliness, or a sense of inadequacy. If you want to tackle a disease, it’s easier to figure out where it’s coming from – which one is gaming? – than to determine what it actually is and why it’s dangerous.”

(It should be noted that video games are one of the few things that can actually be proven to reduce the risk of anxiety.)

As a further issue, more than fifty percent of people who suffer from gaming disorder are actually computer-bound, and because of this, everyone should be able to judge the behavior. Specifically, there is no explanation as to how the activity – or the importance of games – should be determined – it shouldn’t be determined by WHO “secret criteria”.

Ultimately, both the WHO and the American Gaming Association have rather blatantly shown that they’re looking out for the businesses of gaming software companies, rather than the human suffering that drives this incredibly addictive behavior. Not surprisingly, The NIH has followed suit, going even further, and naming video games one of the “risk factors” associated with depression, that is, a condition that should be treated by counselors and not treated by medication. In addition, the FDA (Food and Drug Administration) has issued an official statement saying that video games are “the same as drugs,” and should be treated by a mental health professional rather than by medication.

(Link via ND)

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