ESA Issues Statement On WHO "Gaming Disorder" Diagnosis

Industry trade group cites contested evidence and the possibility of misdiagnosis.

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The Entertainment Software Association (ESA), the trade group for the video game industry, has issued a statement regarding the World Health Organization's new "gaming disorder" disease. The statement is highly critical, citing contested and inconclusive data and concerns of misdiagnosis. It urges the WHO to reconsider before officially placing it in the final version of the medical classification document.

The disorder was named in a draft of the upcoming International Classification of Diseases (ICD). Symptoms include impaired control over gaming, increasing priority of gaming over other life interests, and continuation or escalation of gaming despite negative consequences. The WHO warned that those suffering from "gaming disorder" can suffer impacts to their family, social, educational, and occupational lives.

Separately, the WHO listed "hazardous gaming," which is when a pattern of gaming "appreciably increases the risk of harmful physical or mental health consequences to this individual or others around this individual."

The statement reads as follows:

"It is extremely important to note that the proposed draft circulating is not final and it is still under discussion and review. Experts worldwide are urging caution regarding the World Health Organization's proposed 'gaming disorder' as it may lead to misdiagnosis of real mental health conditions. It is concerning to see the 'gaming disorder' proposal in this draft despite significant opposition from the medical and scientific community. The research supporting inclusion is highly contested and inconclusive. There is no objective evidence to define and diagnose overuse and that may result in misdiagnosis. The WHO should consider the mounting evidence put before them before inclusion next year of 'gaming disorder' in the final version of ICD-11."

The ICD-11 is still under review, so its content may shift. The ESA, for its part, is attempting to influence that possibility with its strongly-worded statement urging the WHO to reconsider.

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