ESA sides with 'internationally renowned' mental health professionals to oppose WHO's gaming disorder proposal

In December last year, the World Health Organization (WHO) listed "gaming disorder" as an addictive behaviour in a beta draft of its International Classification of Diseases for 2018. Perceived as comparable to gambling disorder, the WHO's proposal suggested the observed affliction has negative "mental and behavioural" effects—similar to those consistent with alcohol and drug addiction—and should be categorised alongside "disorders due to substance use or addictive behaviours."

In January, the Entertainment Software Association (ESA) refuted the proposal in a statement, saying it "trivializes real mental health issues". Now, 36 "internationally renowned and respected" mental health professionals and academics have opposed the WHO's proposal, the ESA has announced in a press release.

"Worldwide opposition to the WHO’s controversial and unproven classification of ‘Gaming Disorder’ continues to grow," says ESA president Michael D. Gallagher. Set to feature in the Journal of Behavioral Addictions, the researchers argue that:

  • "Much confusion remains—even among authors supporting the diagnosis—regarding what, exactly, gaming disorder is."
  • "We maintain that the quality of the existing evidence base is low."
  • "Formalizing a disorder with the intention to improve research quality neglects the wider non-clinical societal context."
  • "Robust scientific standards are not (yet) employed."
  • "Moral panic might be influencing formalization and might increase due to it."
  • An addiction "should be clearly and unambiguously established before formalizing new disorders in disease classification system."

Gallacher adds: "The WHO’s process lacks transparency, is deeply flawed, and lacks objective scientific support. We urge this process to be halted."

The ESA's press release can be read in full here.