Question: When is constant video gaming considered a real health/mental health illness?
Answer: When one no longer has control over one’s behavior with gaming, according to the criteria set forth in the draft of the World Health Organization’s upcoming eleventh update of the International Classification of Diseases (ICD-11), set for publication in 2018.

The new diagnosis, “Gaming disorder” is described in the new update as a real health condition.

Gaming disorder is characterized by a pattern of persistent or recurrent gaming behavior (‘digital gaming’ or ‘video-gaming’), which may be online (i.e., over the internet) or offline, manifested by: 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 gaming behavior and other features are normally evident over a period of at least 12 months in order for a diagnosis to be assigned, although the required duration may be shortened if all diagnostic requirements are met and symptoms are severe.

This doesn’t mean that every person – or any person – who plays a video game, has a disorder. In fact, video games can be – and are often – used in treatment to help remedy various conditions.

Any activity can be good or bad, depending on context and intensity or range of use.  Eat an apple and “it keeps the doctor away,” so to speak. Eat 100 a day, and you’ll see the doctor much quicker.

So too with video gaming, which has leaped from an interesting activity, to a fad, to a real addiction for some.

That’s important to know, because a high correlation was found between symptoms of addictive technology use, and males with ADHD. Females with ADHD were found to become engaged with addictive use of social media.

“Men seem generally more likely to become addicted to online gaming, gambling, and cyber-pornography, while women to social media, texting, and online shopping,” said researcher Schou Andreassen, who led the study.  The relationship between addictive use of social media and video games and symptoms of psychiatric disorders: A large-scale cross-sectional study, published in the journal Psychology of Addictive Behaviors in March 2016. There was also a positive relationship of being single to both addictive social networking and video gaming.

The findings of a 2009 study published in Psychological Science showed that 8.5 percent of youth in the United States, ages 8 to 18 exhibited “pathological” video game use that affected important areas of their lives, including school performance.

The study, Pathological Video-Game Use Among Youth Ages 8 to 18, was measured on a national scale and showed that the addiction is one that is real, and measurable.
The issue, however, was seen even in adults – the average age was 35 – and the average video gamer was male.

For those who are wondering how to identify a gaming addiction, here is a quick and easy test. Use the CAGE Questions:

• Have you ever felt you should Cut down on your gaming?

• Have people Annoyed you by criticizing your gaming?

• Have you ever felt bad or Guilty about your gaming?

• Are video games usually the first thing you think about in the morning when you wake up, your Eye-opener?

See, the questions spell out CAGE.  The other thing to do is check to see whether your gaming has increased over time and see whether at the same time your mood has changed, along with changes in other habits (shopping, bathroom, etc.)
Try to cut down and see what happens – that’s a good way to test how much control you have over your own life.

The other issue is duration of gaming behavior: a real problem can be spotted when the behavior persists over a period of at least 12 months.

Gaming can be very isolating.  Just make sure that you’re the one holding the joystick, and that you remember to go to the bathroom. In time.