Recently, the World Health Organization (WHO) officially recognized Gaming Disorder as a disease. WHO member states agree to the long–awaited decision at the agency’s 72nd World Health Assembly in Geneva, Switzerland on May 25, 2019. According to the WHO, in the 11th Revision of the International Classification of Diseases (ICD-11), gaming disorder is defined as ‘pattern of gaming behavior (“digital-gaming” or “video-gaming”) characterized by impaired control over gaming, increasing priority given to gaming over other activities to the extent that gaming takes precedence over other interests and daily activities, and continuation or escalation of gaming despite the occurrence of negative consequences.’ According to Medscape, for the first time in 10 years, the WHO has released a new edition of its ICD. The ICD-11 is a list of diseases and medical conditions that health professionals use to make diagnoses and treatment plans. It is also the first to be fully electronic, and it has 55,000 codes compared to the 14,400 in ICD-10. However, physicians need to know and understand all the new diagnosis codes to ensure proper reimbursement for claims. Relying on an experienced medical billing and coding company is a practical option to submit accurate and timely claims.

Gaming Disorder can be described as uncontrolled gaming, wherein a gamer can’t stop playing a digital or video game even if they can see how it is negatively impacting their life and work. According to ICD-11, people with gaming disorder have trouble controlling the amount of time that they spend playing digital or video games. They also prioritize gaming over other activities and experience negative effects from their gaming behaviors. However, this disorder shares similarities with internet gaming disorder (IGD), which is a condition that the American Psychiatric Association (APA) has labeled in their Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) as requiring further study (The APA does not currently recognize IGD as an official condition).

Signs and Symptoms of Gaming Disorder

According to the WHO’s definition, a person who has gaming disorder will show the following signs and symptoms for at least 12 months:

  • Lacking control over their gaming habits
  • Prioritizing gaming over other interests and activities
  • Continuing gaming despite its negative consequences

For a diagnosis, the above said behaviors must be so severe that they affect the person’s family life, social life, personal life, education and work.

Similarly, as studies show, gaming addiction may also co-occur with other mood disorders, such as anxiety disorders, depression and stress.

Diagnosis and Treatment for Gaming Disorders

After reviewing various researches on the gaming disorders and consulting with experts, WHO decided to classify the condition. The WHO claims that this classification will result in an increased focus on gaming disorder and its prevention and treatment (https://www.medicalnewstoday.com).

For prevention and treatment, first the disorder has to be diagnosed. According to Medical News Today, experts will probably need to devise diagnostic tests, such as questionnaires and structured interviews, to help determine whether or not someone has gaming disorder. They may use something similar to the Internet Gaming Disorder Scale (IGDS), a standard measure of computer and video game addiction.

After the diagnosis, physicians can decide upon the treatment plan. As, Gaming Disorder is a new classification, there is no clear treatment plan in place yet. But not treating these disorders early can result in developing other diseases too. That is, if a person remains physically inactive for extended periods due to gaming they might have a higher risk of obesity, sleep problems, and other health issues.

Medical News Today notes that treatments for other addictive behaviors, such as gambling addiction that includes therapy, medication and self-help group, will also be relevant for gaming disorder. Along with these methods, combining several types of treatments can also be beneficial in treating internet gaming disorders, says a 2017 study. The treatments are:

  • Psychoeducation: Involves educating the person about gaming behaviors and their effects on mental health.
  • Treatment as usual: Adapt addiction treatment that focuses on helping the person to control cravings, deal with irrational thoughts, and learn coping skills and problem-solving techniques.
  • Intrapersonal: Helps people explore their identity, build self-esteem, and enhance their emotional intelligence.
  • Interpersonal: During this treatment, the individual will learn how to interact with others by working on their communication skills and assertiveness.
  • Involving Family: Involving family members in some aspects of treatment could help those whose relationships with family or friends get negatively affected by excessive gaming.
  • Adopting a new lifestyle: Kind of self treatment – that is, to keep yourself away from excessive gaming, you should explore your skills and abilities, set goals for yourself, and find activities other than gaming that you enjoy.

ICD-11 Codes

The newly added ICD-11 codes for Gaming Disorder are

  • 6C51: Gaming disorder
    • 6C51.0: Gaming disorder, predominantly online
    • 6C51.1:  Gaming disorder, predominantly offline; bipolar disorder must not be present
    • 6C51.Z:  Gaming disorder, unspecified
  • QE22: Hazardous gaming

According to ICD-11, Hazardous gaming refers to a pattern of gaming, either online or offline that noticeably increases the risk of harmful physical or mental health consequences to the individual or to others around this individual. The pattern of gaming often persists in spite of awareness of increased risk of harm to the individual or to others.

Healthcare providers must know the latest ICD-11 codes related to documenting Gaming Disorders. For more efficient and reliable coding, physicians can consider getting the assistance of medical billing outsourcing companies, as experienced coders in such firms will be familiar with all applicable codes and can assign the right ones.