Gaming addiction is to be listed as a mental health condition for the first time by the World Health Organisation(WHO).
The W.H,O's 11th International Classification of Diseases (ICD) will include the condition "gaming disorder".The last version of the ICD was completed in 1992, with the new guide due to be published in 2018.
Up to six per cent may be affected, the WHO warns.
However, WHO did not find enough evidence to recognise social media addiction as a disorder following an investigation.
Now, the WHO is saying players can actually become addicted.On Monday, “gaming disorder” will appear in a new draft of the organization’s International Classification of Diseases, the highly regarded compendium of medical conditions.The guide contains codes for diseases, signs and symptoms and is used by doctors and researchers to track and diagnose disease.
Concerns about the influence of video games are dovetailing with increasing scrutiny over the harmful aspects of technology, as consumers look for ways to scale back consumption of social media and online entertainment.
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".
The W.H.O. designation may help legitimize worries about video game fans who neglect other parts of their lives. It could also make gamers more willing to seek treatment, encourage more therapists to provide it and increase the chances that insurance companies would cover it.
-impaired control over gaming (frequency, intensity, duration)
-increased priority given to gaming
-continuation or escalation of gaming despite negative consequences
Some countries had already identified it as a major public health issue.Many, including the UK, have private addiction clinics to "treat" the condition.
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."
Around the world, 2.6 billion people play video games, including two-thirds of American households, according to the Entertainment Software Association.
Annual revenue for the industry is expected to grow 31 percent to $180.1 billion globally within three years. Fortnite — the latest blockbuster, in which players battle to be the last one standing in an apocalyptic storm — recently earned a reported $300 million in a month.
The industry has pushed back against the W.H.O. classification, which is expected to be formally adopted next year, calling it “deeply flawed” while pointing to the “educational, therapeutic and recreational value of games.”