Video Game Addiction May Qualify as Mental Illness

Mental Illness Is No Game 

We have all heard the horror stories of how an addiction to World of Warcraft led to the literal destruction of someone’s life. Giving up on everything else and focusing solely on a video game is a clear sign that something is wrong. Mental illness is involved in some gaming addiction. That is just a fact. The World Health Organization will be voting on whether or not gaming addiction is a mental health disorder itself. 

There are many who say video game addiction being added to the International Compendium of Diseases (ICD) is a great thing. Family and marriage therapist Paula-Jo Husack, who spoke with CBS, is one of many who has voiced this opinion. However, there are others who disagree, saying adding video game addiction to the ICD is a mistake, such as the Dr. Anthony Bean and the three other authors of this paper

Two Sides

To most people, it is pretty clear there is something wrong with gaming addiction. Yet, does that mean it should be classified in the ICD, or the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM)? The United States government and psychologists use the DSM to diagnose mental illness. 

Dr. Bean stands strongly against adding gaming addiction to the ICD and the DSM in his August interview with Polygon. Dr. Bean states that there is simply not enough scientific evidence to recognize gaming addiction. Dr. Bean states that officially recognizing gaming addiction as a mental health disorder is a slippery slope.

XBox Video Gaming“You could do the whole process over again with football, especially with August right around the corner … Why are we not considering that an addiction?” Dr. Bean questioned in his Polygon interview.

Dr. Bean makes some solid points, but the question still remains in a lot of peoples minds: why does it matter? Why fight against adding video game addiction to the ICD or DSM? What is the worst thing that could happen?

Real-World Consequences 

The ICD and DSM are not used for fun. A diagnosis that comes from these books has lasting, real-world consequences. 

There are states, such as California, with laws that prevent a person with certain mental illnesses from living in a home with guns. There are states where you can be involuntarily committed to a mental institution for up to 72 hours, or three months in some cases.

You might see this as a null warning, a crazy person calling out a conspiracy. Yet, as an infantryman, I have seen many of my friends involuntarily committed to mental institutions by police officers for minor altercations simply because they had PTSD. In these cases, police officers have fealt uneasy and often escalated a situation simply because my friends had a mental illness. 

On that note, now we can look at real-world monetary issues. The Department of Veteran Affairs (VA) and the U.S. government uses the DSM to decide disability claims. The VA lumps all mental illnesses into one category, which can reach up to 100% disability for any given mental health issue.


VR Vive Video GamingI am not saying video game addiction shouldn’t be added to the ICD or DSM. I have simply read a lot of articles on this subject and none have covered what happens in the real world if this happens. The reality is, I have no idea what the right choice is. 

I am a veteran, with some mental health issues and a hefty on-and-off gaming addiction. Gaming addiction is a very real issue that hurts a lot of people. People with gaming addication should be taken care of. Yet, the question still stands: is video game addiction, by itself, the issue, or is it simply a symptom of other issues that need to be addressed?

Mental illness is a complicated and delicate subject, so I hope the World Health Organization makes the right choice, whatever that may be. 

Should the U.S. government and psychologists recognize gaming addiction as a mental health disorder? Tell us what you think in the comments!

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About the author

Hans Goss

Hans was a US Army Airborne Infantryman with the 82nd Airborne and is now an avid gamer and writer. You can often find him live on Twitch under his gaming handle Fugio.