The World Health Organisation (WHO) included excessive gaming as a disorder in the 11th Revision of the International Classification of Disease (ICD).

The ICD is the global standard for diagnosis. The WHO uses the ICD as a basis for the identification of health trends and statistics globally. It is the international standard for reporting diseases and health conditions. ICD is used by medical practitioners to diagnose conditions and by researchers to categorize conditions. The 11th Revision was first released in June 2018.

The ICD classifies gaming disorder under “disorders due to addictive behaviors”. Such addictive behaviors develop as a result of repetitive rewarding stimuli, similar to the effect of dependence-producing substances. Gambling disorder is the other addictive behavior identified by the ICD.

Gaming disorder is sub-divided for predominantly online and predominantly offline gaming.

For predominantly online gaming disorder, the ICD description refers specifically to digital-gaming and video-gaming. It is characterized by a pattern of persistent or recurrent gaming that is primarily conducted over the internet.

The symptoms are:

  1. impaired control over gaming (e.g., onset, frequency, intensity, duration, termination, context);
  2. increasing priority given to gaming to the extent that gaming takes precedence over other life interests and daily activities; and
  3. continuation or escalation of gaming despite the occurrence of negative consequences. The behavior pattern is of sufficient severity to result in significant impairment in personal, family, social, educational, occupational or other important areas of functioning.

The pattern of gaming behavior may be continuous or episodic and recurrent. 

The behavior is normally evident over a period of at least 12 months before a diagnosis is assigned. However, a diagnosis may also be made if all the diagnostic requirements are met and the symptoms are severe.

In short, clinical diagnosis is on the basis of “a severe behavior pattern that results 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.”

Help is available.

A study conducted by Singapore’s Ministry of Education and the Media Development Authority identified 9% of teens as “pathological gamers” who spend at least 37.5 hours per week online.

Parents and adolescents in Singapore may seek help from the National Addictions Management Service (NAMS), under the Institute of Mental Health.