Gaming Disorder

Foreword from UKIE

Video games are enjoyed by people all over the world for recreational, educational and therapeutic purposes. The therapeutic value of games are increasingly important in today’s society and bring innovation to treatments, such as in the field of dementia but there are numerous other areas. The value of the educational benefits of games for educational purposes no longer needs to be proved. Games improves strategic thinking and increasingly teachers bring games into the classroom for an enhanced learning experience, ranging from Minecraft’s Education Edition allowing to create workshops and initiate pupils to work on mathematics, languages and science.  Other games such as Assassins Creed Origin’s Discovery Tours dedicated to teachers brings the history of Ancient Egypt into the classroom allowing virtual visits to monuments and historical places.


Studies show that games have beneficial effects on cognitive, motivational, emotional and social development including benefits to children’s vision and their ability to learn. In the UK one in three people play games for all the above-mentioned purposes as well as for pure fun. Globally, the average age of a player is mid-30s, with a growing population of over-50s and adult women enjoying games as part of their cultural diet. Across games and platforms globally, the gender split is almost 50/50. The safety of our players is our primary concern and the video games industry takes this responsibility incredibly seriously.  In addition to clear age rating symbols and descriptor icons, all of today’s consoles and mobile devices offer smart and simple parental controls which can be used to restrict the amount of time spent playing games, limit internet access and they allow control of access to age appropriate content. contains information on all of these tools as well as up to date information on the latest titles, advice on how to play games safely and responsibly, and it offers families, educators and carers helpful tips to ensure they get the most out of the games they can enjoy together. We encourage the use of parental controls combined with talking as a family to promote balanced and fulfilling game play.  Globally, there are regular awareness campaigns and we want parents, carers and educators to be able to have the conversations together about setting household rules and then sticking to them. We recognise that players who experience mental or behavioral health issues may be coping with issues that have nothing to do with games – so we encourage policy makers at all levels to boost public investments in mental and behavioral health.


The WHO have been conducting activities related to the public health implications of excessive use of the internet, computers, smartphones and similar electronic devices since 2014. This was in response to concerns expressed by professional groups, WHO collaborating centers, academics and clinicians about the public health relevance of conditions associated with excessive use of the internet and other communication and “gaming” platforms.


There is no official report available from the mental health expert group within the WHO explaining what led to the decision to include or even single out “gaming disorder”. The WHO’s reasoning for introducing this disorder and “codifying it” is therefore unclear, especially considering other respected expert-medical bodies in the field of mental health, such as the American Psychiatric Association, declined to codify gaming disorder and are calling for additional research into this.

What is gaming addiction AKA Gaming Disorder?

Gaming disorder has been defined as a pattern of gaming behaviour (‘digital-gaming’ or ‘video-gaming’) which:

  • Causes an overwhelming urge to spend all the time gaming.
  • Means that gaming is given priority over any other activity, work or school, or any other interest.
  • Continues or even increases the amount of time spent gaming, even though it is causing harmful effects on family, work/education and social life.

Gaming disorder is now recognised by the World Health Organization as a mental health condition. For the condition to be diagnosed as gaming disorder, the behaviour pattern must be severe enough to cause significant negative effects on personal, family, social, educational, occupational or other important life activities. The features of gaming disorder should have been continuing for at least 12 months.

How common is gaming addiction?

Many millions of people throughout the world regularly spend time gaming. But gaming addiction is much less common. It is estimated that gaming addiction affects between 1 and 9 out of every 100 gamers.

What are the symptoms of gaming addiction?

Gaming addiction can cause various symptoms and the severity will vary from person to person. Some of the symptoms can also be caused by other kinds of stress, so it can’t alway be assumed that it is gaming that’s the cause of any problems. The symptoms of gaming addiction are as follows:

  • Gaming behaviour:
    • Preoccupation with games, constantly thinking about previous games and anticipating playing the next game. Gaming becomes the dominant activity in daily life.
    • Self-imposed isolation in order to guarantee uninterrupted play.
    • The use of gaming to relieve negative moods, such as guilt, anxiety or hopelessness.
    • The need to spend increasing amounts of time gaming.
    • Withdrawal symptoms when gaming is taken away. These symptoms are often described as irritability, restlessness, anxiety, or depression.
    • Deceiving family members or others about the amount of time spent gaming.
    • People with increased gaming symptoms may have greater levels of depression and also an increased tendency to become aggressive.
  • Effects on other activities:
    • Loss of interest in real-life relationships, previous hobbies, and other entertainment as a result of gaming.
    • Risk of losing, or actually losing, a job, educational or career opportunity, or a relationship due to gaming.
  • Persistent tiredness due to lack of sleep.
  • Continued excessive gaming despite being aware of the problems it’s causing.
  • Being unable to reduce playing and having failed attempts to quit gaming.

If someone spends many hours at a time gaming, this does not necessarily mean that they have gaming addiction. However, that amount of time along with the signs listed above indicates a problem.

If there is any chance an addiction exists, early recognition and treatment are very important.

How can gaming addiction be treated?

There is currently a lack of very strong evidence on the best treatments for gaming addiction. The most widely used psychological help has been cognitive behavioural therapy. Other approaches, including family therapy and motivational interviewing, have also been used.

Treating gaming addiction is based on an assessment of each individual person and the severity of their gaming addiction. The aim of treatment is usually to help the person completely avoid gaming because even a small amount of gaming may steadily increase back to a problem in a person who is susceptible to gaming addiction.

Treatment is based on helping a person with gaming addiction to:

  • Gradually reduce the amount of time spent gaming.
  • Recognise their own addictive behaviour.
  • Understand the causes or triggers of their gaming addiction and so develop strategies to overcome them.
  • Understand the harm their gaming addiction is causing.

It is also very important to teach families how to help and support the person with gaming addiction.