WHO Recognizes Video Gaming Addiction As Mental Disorder

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(Cate Gillon/Getty Images)
(Cate Gillon/Getty Images)

To parents who think their kids might be addicted to video games, the World Health Organization says, "You might be right."

Gaming disorder will appear in a new draft of the WHO's International Classification of Diseases. Some mental health professionals say the new designation could have significant impacts, including getting treatment covered by insurance, making gamers more willing to get treatment and giving credence to parents' concerns about their kids' use of video games.

Dr. Hilarie Cash is a psychologist and co-founder of reSTART, a residential facility for adults and adolescents addicted to the internet and video gaming. She joins Here & Now's Robin Young to talk about the WHO's new designation.

Interview Highlights

On why this really is a disorder

"When the adults come, they're usually severely depressed, they've failed out of high school. They've failed in relationships, if they've even tried a relationship. They've failed out of work. They're just at their wits' end. And many of them are actually suicidally depressed. They cannot get away from the games and the internet. And the kids we treat are between the ages of 13 and 18. When they come, most of them are in school refusal. They've stopped going to school and they are fighting, really fighting, with their parents in very severe ways, sometimes quite violently. And they are often depressed as well. But we see the school refusal and violent behavior at home as pretty common symptoms."

"What we also know is that it actually impedes development in children in a number of areas."

Dr. Hilarie Cash on playing video games

On the benefits of playing video games

"They say it is really good for hand-eye coordination. And if you're a surgeon, for instance, it really helps to play a video game before you go into surgery. But how many people kind of need that level of hand-eye coordination? Most of us don't. And what we also know is that it actually impedes development in children in a number of areas, including their social development, their executive functioning, that prefrontal cortex. So it can impede development, I think if it's introduced too young and children are allowed to play too much, it really can have detrimental effects."

On the costs of treatment at reSTART and the hope that the WHO's designation might get coverage from insurance companies

"It's $550 a day for the intensive phase of the program, and then the costs drop off way lower than that as time goes by, as they stay longer in the program if they choose to. And, of course, it would be enormously helpful if insurance would be convinced to pay for it. This does open the door for that, although it takes a long time for the insurance companies to make the changes they need to make internally. And it requires pressure from the purchasers of insurance."

On suggestions for those that can't afford rehab right now

"You need support. You need not to be isolated. So find a therapist who understands gaming disorder. Find a support group, and that might be through a 12-step meeting, maybe Gamblers Anonymous. We've started one called Internet and Technology Addicts Anonymous. Find a 12-step meeting where you can be part of a community. If you're a parent struggling with your kids, go to Al-Anon."

List Of Resources For Gaming Disorder


This article was originally published on June 19, 2018.

This segment aired on June 19, 2018.


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