World Health Organisation

Gaming disorder

Online Q&A
January 2018

What is gaming disorder?

Gaming disorder is defined in the draft 11th Revision of the International Classification of Diseases (ICD-11) as a pattern of gaming behavior (“digital-gaming” or “video-gaming”) characterized by impaired control over gaming, increasing priority given to gaming over other activities to the extent that gaming takes precedence over other interests and daily activities, and continuation or escalation of gaming despite the occurrence of negative consequences.

For gaming disorder to be diagnosed, the behaviour pattern must be of sufficient severity to result 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.

What is the International Classification of Diseases?

The International Classification of Diseases (ICD) is the basis for identification of health trends and statistics globally and the international standard for reporting diseases and health conditions. It is used by medical practitioners around the world to diagnose conditions and by researchers to categorize conditions.

The inclusion of a disorder in ICD is a consideration which countries take into account when planning public health strategies and monitoring trends of disorders.

WHO is working on updating of the ICD. The 11th revision of the International Classification of Diseases (ICD-11) is scheduled for publication in mid-2018.

Why is gaming disorder being included in ICD-11?

A decision on inclusion of gaming disorder in ICD-11 is based on reviews of available evidence and reflects a consensus of experts from different disciplines and geographical regions that were involved in the process of technical consultations undertaken by WHO in the process of ICD-11 development.

The inclusion of gaming disorder in ICD-11 follows the development of treatment programmes for people with health conditions identical to those characteristic of gaming disorder in many parts of the world, and will result in the increased attention of health professionals to the risks of development of this disorder and, accordingly, to relevant prevention and treatment measures.

Should all people who engage in gaming be concerned about developing gaming disorder?

Studies suggest that gaming disorder affects only a small proportion of people who engage in digital- or video-gaming activities. However, people who partake in gaming should be alert to the amount of time they spend on gaming activities, particularly when it is to the exclusion of other daily activities, as well as to any changes in their physical or psychological health and social functioning that could be attributed to their pattern of gaming behaviour.

Gaming addiction advice


Advice on gaming addiction

Many parents will be familiar with the image of their child hunched over their computer or console, eyes fixed in concentration on the screen, oblivious to what's going on around them for hours on end. If you're concerned about online addiction or gaming addiction, read on for information and support.


A survey by ChildWise revealed that school children spend an average of six hours a day in front of screens (TV, games consoles and online). 43% have internet access in their bedrooms while a separate study suggested the figure for teenagers is closer to ten hours. And it’s not just children who become obsessed with online gaming… 

It’s been suggested that between five and ten per cent of the 46.6 million web users in Britain may be addicts. Online gaming is particularly compulsive. A recent report by Sweden's Youth Care Foundation described the extremely popular multi-player game World of Warcraft as "more addictive than crack cocaine". And if this is the effect on adults, what about our children?

These days you can interact, in real time, with other players around the world (or play alone) in games with amazing life-like animation and incredible storylines which advocates say are a great way for children to socialise and compete and are no more dangerous than any other games.  Problems arise, however, when hours of playing time start to encroach on other activities, including schoolwork, seeing friends and even eating and sleeping, according to Brian Dudley, Chief Executive of Broadway Lodge, a residential rehabilitation centre in Weston-super-Mare, Somerset. The centre normally deals with alcoholics and drug addicts but has started treating online gaming addicts. 

"In my opinion, we’re sitting on a ticking time bomb," he warns. "I began getting more enquiries about online gaming addiction about a year ago - not just from concerned parents of school-age children but from those at University or struggling to hold down a job because of their addiction. Unlike other forms of addiction, such as gambling, there's no national helpline where worried parents can seek help."

As a parent you can exert a measure of control. "If the gaming starts affecting family life, if your child starts losing touch with friends, if you notice a behavioural change (some children can become aggressive or withdrawn) then address the issue immediately," advises Brian Dudley.

Dr Richard Graham, an expert in child and teen disorders and head of the newly-opened Capio Nightingale’s Young Person Technology Addiction Service agrees: "I've been contacted by parents who see their children going into a rage when they’re told to turn off the computer. Some end up having to call the police. What we need are official guidelines now on what counts as healthy or unhealthy use of technology."

Why is online gaming so addictive?

Unlike video games where the rewards might be improving your highest score or getting your name on the 'hall of fame', with online gaming, there is no end to the game so there is the potential to play endlessly against - and with - other real people, explains Professor Mark Griffiths of Nottingham Trent University's International Gaming Research Unit.

This can be immensely rewarding and psychologically engrossing. The addiction is caused by the 'partial reinforcement effect' (PRE) - where you’re rewarded often enough to keep playing but not so predictably that you get bored,like fruit machines paying out to gamblers at certain intervals, to make the games more attractive. "This critical psychological ingredient keeps players responding in the hope that another 'reward' is just around the corner," explains Professor Griffiths. 

Moderation and common sense play an important role in managing this. "Any activity when taken to excess can cause problems in a person's life. And there's lots of evidence suggesting gaming can have very positive effects," he says. "It can make individuals feel better about themselves and raise their self-esteem as well as being therapeutic in dealing with stress."

If you are concerned about a family member who may be struggling with online addiction, you can contact Family Lives on 0808 800 2222.


How we can help you

If you would like support and advice, you can talk to one of our Family Support Workers by calling our confidential helpline on 0808 800 2222. You can also share experiences and advice with other parents on our Forums. Family Lives is here for you and you can contact us about any family issue, big or small.

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video game addiction

‘My son is hooked on video games - there's no offline version of him anymore’: Mum warns of tech addiction crisis

Jamie Roberton Digital Reporter
  • By Jamie Roberton and Natalia Jorquera: ITV News

Parents and psychologists have warned of a technology addiction crisis in the UK, with one mother telling ITV News of how her teenage son "simply stopped functioning" because of his obsession with video games.

Kendal Parmar revealed how her 12-year-old son went from a talented pupil and gifted rugby player to a complete recluse whose addiction to gaming and technology has had a devastating impact on him and his family.

Now aged 15, he has stopped playing rugby, seeing friends and has not been to school for over a year. The situation recently escalated to a point where he stopped eating and washing, leaving him requiring urgent psychiatric help.

“It’s heartbreaking to see him and his life being wasted away," she said. "His life is only online now, he has no friends - he was incredibly popular - so everything has reduced to being an online version of him, there’s no offline version of him."

"He’s not engaged with anything - he just continually wants to play the game that he’s into and that’s Fortnite at the moment. It’s even too much of a hassle to talk, to walk and even engage with any of his family.

“We have all lost him."

Kendal Parmer is calling for greater awareness and support for her son. Credit: ITV News

Her decision to speak out comes as a Parliamentary inquiry into the impact of screen-time on young people is launched, and just months after the World Health Organisation (WHO) classified gaming addiction as a mental health disorder.

Dr Richard Graham, who set up one of the UK's first technology addiction clinics at the private Nightingale Hospital in central London, argues the NHS is failing to keep up with a problem that he believes is emerging at an "extraordinary and relentless pace".

He is now calling for technology to be recognised on the same level as gambling, alcohol and drug addiction.

"For a parent or young person trying to get help through the health service now, our models there are still rooted in the last century," he told ITV News.

"There are people suffering now that are not getting the services they need. This is slowly becoming a public health issue. We have seen concerns in the US and I think it's starting to happen here too.

"We just can't wait - we have to get on to this now."

Campaigners have called on the government and health service to act on the emerging issue. Credit: ITV News

Belinda Parmar was once a passionate supporter of technology, founding the firm Lady Geek to involve more girls and women in tech.

But, increasingly disturbed by her own family's own problematic relationship with tech, she decided to launch the to raise awareness of addiction and to hold the biggest gaming and social media companies to account.

"This situation is so urgent because we have parents that don’t know how to manage their children's tech, kids going in to schools exhausted, governments who are not doing anything about it and big tech companies not taking responsibility," she says.

"The impact on our kids - we just don’t know. When we look back at this era in society, we will be saying what were we thinking? Why were we giving our children so much unfettered access?"


“Mental health professionals need to start talking about it instead of just trying to put it in their nice, neat categories that they have already got that it doesn’t fit with - if it was drug addiction, we would have been supported.”

What would she say to the parents that question whether she, as a mother, could have been stricter and tackled her son’s addiction to games earlier?

“My other children manage technology - some people can handle it and some people can’t. There are no warnings on any of the games on the level of addiction and something in them that sucks him in and there’s nothing left.

“When he plays any of these games like Fortnite - even if we were being burgled or the house was on fire - nothing matters apart from that and getting to the next level and the next level.”

Kendal - who has worked closely with technology as the co-founder of Untapped AI - recalls having to lock devices in a safe and even call the police on several occasions due to her son’s violent and aggressive outbursts when she has attempted to stop him playing the games

The teenager has also resorted to stealing cables and re-routing the internet in order to get back online.

“He’d do anything to get the tech back,” she explains.

Kendal said her son would 'do anything' to get back to gaming. Credit: ITV News

For Kendal, the physical consequences of the addiction have been just as painful to witness as the emotional.

“He gets lots of headaches, his legs hurt, he has aches down his legs when he walks. The colour of his skin - he looks grey. His posture - it’s distressing to watch.”

Kendal says her decision to speak out was motivated not just by her desire to get long-overdue help for her own son, but also to raise awareness of a "silent addiction" that she believes is afflicting so many other young people and adults in the UK.

"We are still in this right now, we haven’t come out of the other end - we are not in OK Magazine yet," she says.

“It’s such a silent addiction, it’s in our house; it doesn’t affect society; he’s just shut in his room and that’s why I wanted to talk today - it must be affecting so many other children and it’s only going to get worse.

“At the moment it’s silent but the effect on this generation, without proper mental health expertise - god knows.”

  • If you are in distress or need some support, the Samaritans are available 24 hours a day on 116 123 or through their website.
Last updated Wed 23 May 2018

The truth about tech

Our Manifesto

Technology is pretty amazing.

And by the time you read this, it’ll be even more amazing.

It was the fruit of human knowledge, but now technology is advancing human knowledge at speeds we never thought possible.

We constantly feed our brains, but we’re not very mindful of what we’re putting in them.

We categorize the food we eat as being good or bad, healthy or junk.

And it’s time we did the same with our tech.

Let’s take a good look into our screens. And at who’s behind them.

Let’s cut down on the junk, or get rid of it altogether.

Because just like there’s junk food, there’s junk tech.

And it’s every bit as dangerous and addictive.

Likes make us feel loved. Gaming makes us winners.

But we should be conscious of what we’re putting in our brains.

Seeing what’s in front of us, not what’s on our screens.

And liking things with our feelings, not just by clicking a button.

Let’s power down our devices, and power up our emotions.

Because the human intelligence that created junk tech can come up with something better, too.

This website contains links to various resources and articles such as the ones below:



Gaming addiction


Gaming addiction classified as disorder by WHO

  • 2 January 2018



Image copyright Getty Images Image caption According to an Oxford University study, boys are more likely to spend time gaming than girls

Gaming addiction is to be listed as a mental health condition for the first time by the World Health Organisation.

Its 11th International Classification of Diseases (ICD) will include the condition "gaming disorder".

The draft document describes it as a pattern of persistent or recurrent gaming behaviour so severe that it takes "precedence over other life interests".

Some countries had already identified it as a major public health issue.

Many, including the UK, have private addiction clinics to "treat" the condition.


The last version of the ICD was completed in 1992, with the new guide due to be published in 2018.

The guide contains codes for diseases, signs and symptoms and is used by doctors and researchers to track and diagnose disease.

It will suggest that abnormal gaming behaviour should be in evidence over a period of at least 12 months "for a diagnosis to be assigned" but added that period might be shortened "if symptoms are severe".

Symptoms include:

  • impaired control over gaming (frequency, intensity, duration)
  • increased priority given to gaming
  • continuation or escalation of gaming despite negative consequences

Dr Richard Graham, lead technology addiction specialist at the Nightingale Hospital in London, welcomed the decision to recognise the condition.

"It is significant because it creates the opportunity for more specialised services. It puts it on the map as something to take seriously."

But he added that he would have sympathy for those who do not think the condition should be medicalised.

"It could lead to confused parents whose children are just enthusiastic gamers."

He said he sees about 50 new cases of digital addiction each year and his criteria is based on whether the activity is affecting basic things such as sleep, eating, socialising and education.

He said one question he asked himself was: "Is the addiction taking up neurological real-estate, dominating thinking and preoccupation?"

Many psychiatrists refer to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM), the fifth edition of which was published in 2013.

In that, internet gaming disorder is listed as a "condition for further study", meaning it is not officially recognised.

Lots of countries are grappling with the issue and in South Korea the government has introduced a law banning access for children under 16 from online games between midnight and 06:00.

In Japan, players are alerted if they spend more than a certain amount of time each month playing games and in China, internet giant Tencent has limited the hours that children can play its most popular games.

A recent study from the University of Oxford suggested that, although children spend a lot of time on their screens, they generally managed to intertwine their digital pastimes with daily life.

The research - looking at children aged eight to 18 - found that boys spent longer playing video games than girls.

Researcher Killian Mullan said: "People think that children are addicted to technology and in front of these screens 24/7, to the exclusion of other activities - and we now know that is not the case."

"Our findings show that technology is being used with and in some cases perhaps to support other activities, like homework for instance, and not pushing them out," he added.

"Just like we adults do, children spread their digital tech use throughout the day, while doing other things."

Addiction-What is it?

Addiction: what is it?

If you have an addiction, you're not alone. According to the charity Action on Addiction, 1 in 3 people are addicted to something.

Addiction is defined as not having control over doing, taking or using something to the point where it could be harmful to you.

Addiction is most commonly associated with gambling, drugs, alcohol and nicotine, but it's possible to be addicted to just about anything, including:

  • work – some people are obsessed with their work to the extent that they become physically exhausted; if your relationship, family and social life are affected and you never take holidays, you may be addicted to work
  • internet – as computer and mobile phone use has increased, so too have computer and internet addictions; people may spend hours each day and night surfing the internet or gaming while neglecting other aspects of their lives
  • solvents – volatile substance abuse is when you inhale substances such as glue, aerosols, petrol or lighter fuel to give you a feeling of intoxication
  • shopping – shopping becomes an addiction when you buy things you don't need or want to achieve a buzz; this is quickly followed by feelings of guilt, shame or despair

What causes addictions?

There are lots of reasons why addictions begin. In the case of drugs, alcohol and nicotine, these substances affect the way you feel, both physically and mentally. These feelings can be enjoyable and create a powerful urge to use the substances again.

Gambling may result in a similar mental "high" after a win, followed by a strong urge to try again and recreate that feeling. This can develop into a habit that becomes very hard to stop.

Being addicted to something means that not having it causes withdrawal symptoms, or a "come down". Because this can be unpleasant, it's easier to carry on having or doing what you crave, and so the cycle continues.

Often, an addiction gets out of control because you need more and more to satisfy a craving and achieve the "high".


How addictions can affect you

The strain of managing an addiction can seriously damage your work life and relationships. In the case of substance misuse (for example, drugs and alcohol), an addiction can have serious psychological and physical effects.

Some studies suggest addiction is genetic, but environmental factors, such as being around other people with addictions, are also thought to increase the risk.

An addiction can be a way of blocking out difficult issues. Unemployment and poverty can trigger addiction, along with stress and emotional or professional pressure.


Getting help for addictions

Addiction is a treatable condition. Whatever the addiction, there are lots of ways you can seek help. You could see your GP for advice or contact an organisation that specialises in helping people with addictions.

You can use the following online directories to find addiction treatment services in your area:

The following links have more information about the treatment, support and advice available for dealing with:

To speak to someone anonymously about any type of addiction, you can call the Samaritans free on 116 123.