My Thoughts on the ICD-11 DRAFT Including Gaming Disorder
First of all, to clear up any confusion, gaming disorder is NOT an official diagnosis…yet. It was proposed to the International Classification of Diseases 11th Revision (ICD-11) which will come out later this year. Similarly the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-5) has Internet Gaming Disorder as a condition for further study. (1), (2)
In other words, both the mental health world and the medical world are recognizing that there is a need for further exploration and research. Problematic video gaming as a behavioral addiction is not a diagnosis as of right now (2/15/18).
What the heck is a behavioral addiction (or process addiction)?
I’m sure we’re all familiar with substance use addictions (heroin addiction for example). Behavioral addiction just means there is a specific behavior (shopping, food, exercise, gaming, etc.) that causes the same negative consequences. The difference is that there is no physical dependence like with a substance use addiction. According to experts there is still a compulsion to engage in the specific behavior despite negative impact on the person. (3)
And does this mean that the mental health and medical community all agree that video gaming is a terrible thing?
Absolutely not. There are literally communities of therapists and mental health professionals affirming geeks and gamers (including yours truly). There are also conferences out there dedicated to the positive impact of video game use. There’s even a Bill Nye Saves the World episode of how video games are changing the world called “Cheat Codes for Reality.” Science Rules!
What are my views on Gaming Disorder?
Firstly, Gaming Disorder (as it’s currently defined) will probably be akin to diagnosing the symptom and not the underlying cause. I believe gaming can be a way to cope rather than a problem. It brings to mind the cultural implications of officially diagnosing video game use but excluding things like Netflix, social media, or other equally binge-worthy ways to “turn off your brain” or emotionally regulate.
Secondly, I do believe that there is a need for some to examine their relationship with games. The one benefit that I could see in using Gaming Disorder as a diagnosis is for insurance. Often to get reimbursement clinicians need to create relevant treatment plans that reflect that diagnosis. This would only be the case if folks can separate the person from the diagnosis. It’s important to acknowledge that gaming culture is just as rich and important as other forms of subculture.
Thirdly, another problem with classifying Gaming Disorder as a diagnosis is that there are no evidence-based treatment models out there to help with video game addiction- yikes! So what is that going to mean for professionals when people start to come in with the diagnosis and we have no empirical way to treat it? I think this just speaks to how new the concern is in general and how- as a professional community- we might be biting off more than we can chew.
Shout out to this podcast by GT Radio for helping me to stimulate my views.
Let’s keep the conversation open and not jump to any medical disease-type conclusions just yet, please!
If you’re interested in me as a gamer-affirmative therapist, you can email me here and I’d be happy to answer any questions. I am accepting new clients in South Austin at this time. I’d be happy to set up a free 30-minute consultation with you.
Julia Stamman, LPC
Hi, I’m Julia! I’m an LPC (licensed professional counselor) practicing in South Austin. I understand the personal importance of a therapist groking my lifestyle, so I started helping others who identify as geeks, gamers, and/or misfits. Over time, I realized that I’m passionate about attachment-related trauma, social anxiety, and neurodiversity. On this blog, I write on topics like the overlap of alternative culture and mental health, and how to find services catered to these lifestyles.
Excellent article! Video games have taken on a substantial presence in our lives over the past 20 years. From classic arcade games to pay as you go smart phone apps. I completely agree that this is an area deserving of more research and attention. Both as a source of maladaptive coping AND as a viable source for treatment protocols. Thank you for doing what you do Julia!
Thanks for sharing your thoughts Landon! It is pretty crazy how video games have become part of most of our lives- even if you don’t consider yourself a “gamer” you’ve probably played board games or phone games. It will indeed be interesting to see what comes of the research. What an exciting time to be alive!