When WHO lists gaming disorder as a disease

Syed Tashfin Chowdhury | Published: July 04, 2018 21:36:36 | Updated: July 04, 2018 22:08:28

It is common for parents from the upper-middle and upper income strata of Dhaka's society to buy their children video gaming consoles and other gaming devices. Their reasons are simple: it is better that the child spends their leisure time indoors than go outside and play and interact with strangers. The parents are eager to insulate them against all sorts of social evils including drug addiction and crime. Since 2016, the fear of militancy has also added to this list.

But by buying their children a gaming device or console, the parents may be doing more harm than good to their children.

On June 18 last, the World Health Organisation (WHO) officially recognised gaming disorder as a mental health condition. Earlier, the new condition was included in the  2017 draft of WHO's update of International Classification of Diseases (ICD-11). The WHO recognition will now allow medical professionals to diagnose people with such disorders and take measures towards treating them.

Before WHO, the US National Library of Medicine had defined the condition as a control disorder that has the strength to change the mood of the gamer, cause them to have physical and emotional withdrawal symptoms if they are kept away from gaming. Almost similar to the reaction experienced by addicts of drugs.

The symptoms of gaming disorder include losing control over the duration and frequency that the person is giving towards gaming; prioritising gaming over basic necessities and continuing gaming routine despite negative consequences.

The condition can even lead to fatal consequences. According to thegamer.com, between 2012 and 2016, 15 young men and women died due to different reasons while involved in gaming for more than 24 hours and some even seven days together. The sedentary situation caused deep vein thrombosis, heart failure, severe exhaustion and dehydration and asthma to these gaming addicts leading to their deaths.

While most gamers do not suffer such fatal consequences, they end up with physical and social ailments that can harm them in the near future.  As they prefer to spend more time on their video game consoles or on their personal computers, they tend to avoid their loved ones and friends, eventually becoming more anti-social.  International media have reported incidents when young gamers lost their social skills of making new friends or communicating properly with family members and peers as they become habituated with being alone.

As they spend 15 to 20 hours sitting before the computer or television screens, these gamers also end up with physical ailments like weight loss, impaired vision, vitamin D deficiency, cluster headaches, sore legs and even obesity.  Many children in Dhaka spend anywhere between 14 to 20 hours on their gaming devices. In fact, rather than sleeping, some spend entire nights hunched before the PC or gaming consoles.

It may take a while for the diagnosis and treatment procedures of 'gaming disorder' condition to come to Bangladesh.  But prior to that, parents can play a pro-active role in understanding the daily routine of their children. They may allow their children to play video games but not to the extent where it becomes an addiction for them. Also, the attention of the children can be diverted towards other, more physically engaging activities.

Due to unplanned urbanisation, there is a severe dearth of open fields and playgrounds for children in Dhaka. But there are still some areas in the city that have parks and playgrounds. Parents living in these areas can still allow their children to spend a few hours every week in the nearby parks. If possible, the parents can accompany their children.

Even indoors, the children can enjoy innocent board and card games like Scrabble, Monopoly, Uno and others. These are games that the whole family can play, creating opportunities for all members to bond better.



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