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Psychological Methods, Education and Family Support Needed to Beat Game Addiction

After WHO listed online game addiction as illness, more research is needed into how to treat it successfully, says commentator

By Zhang Qingchen Updated Jun.1

Solutions to deal with addiction to online games must involve psychological methods, education and family support, said Zhang Tiankan, a columnist for The Beijing News.  

On May 25, the World Health Organization (WHO) held the 72nd session of the World Health Assembly, adopting the 11th Revision of the International Classification of Diseases, which for the first time listed video game addiction as a mental illness.  

Many stakeholders, represented by game associations and e-tourism groups, clearly objected to the WHO's determination that there is not sufficient evidence for this.

It is also argued that if addiction to video games is classified as a disease, it may cover up emotional illnesses such as depression or social anxiety disorders, and patients who really need assistance will face a misdiagnosis crisis.

Although this determination is not legally binding, WHO member states need to propose new treatment and preventive measures for game addiction before the revision comes into effect on January 1, 2022 revision.

Zhang said that while it might be easy to diagnose a disease, it is not easy to find appropriate treatment. Both physical and psychological reasons can result in game addiction. 

Previously, some medical institutions used electroshock therapy on children to solve game addiction, but this caused lots of pain for patients. Also, there are also side effects, like sickness, headache or even depression.

Instead, many game planners or researchers are seeking solutions in game design, or encouraging children to play more educational games. Parents can also use a carrot-and-stick approach, allowing them game time if they do well in their studies, or by reducing game time if they perform poorly. However, many parents think that all gaming must be bad, and treat it like a drug addiction, which is only harmful to children.

Zhang said that more research is needed in how to deal with game addiction. But there is no doubt that when the WHO regards game addiction as a disease, more research, including daily or clinic research, is necessary according to their criteria.