Could Video Gaming Be Affecting Your Health?

Gaming Disorder | Dr. Ali Ghahary

We all know that there are certain things we should either reduce or avoid all together when it comes to keeping our minds and our bodies healthy – such as limiting sugar and carbohydrates, quitting smoking, avoiding alcohol, and other everyday items. Now, something else is set to be added to that list: Video gaming.

According to the World Health Organization, gaming disorders are very real and can have a negative impact on your mental health. As a result, they are looking to add it to their International Classification of Diseases in 2018. Just as there has been an increased prevalence with computer use, tablets and smartphones, WHO says video gaming is also on the rise.

Per the World Health Organization’s recent ICT-11 draft, a gaming disorder is characterized by a pattern of persistent or recurring gaming behaviours either online or offline, and is manifested by the following:

1. Impaired control over gaming – such as frequency, duration, and intensity.
2. Increased priority to gaming, taking precedence over other life interests and activities.
3. Escalation of gaming.

The World Health Organization also says that excessive video gaming can result in significant impairment in personal relationships, the ability to socialize, education, occupation, and other areas of functioning.

In order for family physicians like Dr. Ali Ghahary to be able to diagnose patients with a gaming disorder, the pattern of a patients’ gaming disorder must be continuous, or episodic and recurrent, and should last over a period of at least 12 months. If the length of excessive gaming is shorter than 12 months but the patient presents with any of the aforementioned symptoms, then they can still be diagnosed with a gaming disorder.

Along with having an impact on mental health, Dr. Ali Ghahary also says that video gaming can induce other health problems such as repetitive strain injuries, muscle stiffness (usually in the shoulders due to poor posture), and vision problems. Video gaming has also been linked to an increase in aggressive behaviour and violence in adolescents, as well as increased reports of depression. Video games can also bring on epileptic seizures; as a result, all video game manufacturers are required to provide epilepsy warnings in their instruction manuals.

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