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The future of fighting gaming disorder in China

Gaming disorder, or gaming addiction, is a public health problem. It is so serious, in fact, that it has been officially recognized as a clinical disorder. This year, the WHO added gaming disorder to its 11th edition of the International Classification of Diseases (ICD-11). This announcement has significant implications on the future of healthcare, as the organization can now measure not only the prevalence of gaming disorder worldwide, but also its influence on healthcare systems and health insurance companies.

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The importance of the International Classification of Diseases

Adding gaming disorder to the International Classification of Diseases matters because organizations around the world including insurers, scientists, hospitals, doctors and government agencies use them as a foundation for making decisions around healthcare, insurance, policy, and research.

What’s important is that gaming disorder has been granted official diagnostic status. Before the release of IDC-11 draft, gaming disorder did not have an official diagnosis status. This means it could not be diagnosed as an official disorder, so seeking appropriate help has been (and still is) difficult. If not stated that it is medically necessary, treatment for this disorder will not be covered by any insurance policy.

This will change, however, when in 2022 the ICD-11 is due to come into force. With gaming disorder being officially classified as a mental health condition, the healthcare and insurance industries would have to make amendments to accommodate the new standards. That’s great news, as in a few years, you might be able to get help for yourself or the ones you love easier by having access to gaming disorder insurance benefits.

Addictive behavioral disorders

Internet and gaming disorders are classified as addictive behavioral disorders. The main symptom of behavioral addiction includes compulsive, repetitive involvement in a rewarding behavior, such as gaming, use of social media, work, watching pornography, etc., despite consistent adverse consequences.

Symptoms of internet and gaming behavioral disorders in particular include:

  • Feelings of euphoria when using the computer or mobile phone for gaming
  • Dishonesty (e.g. lying to others about how much time they spend on gaming)
  • Avoidance of work, school, and/or other obligations
  • Mood swings (caused by depression, anxiety, or withdrawal symptoms)
  • Lost sense of time (playing all day and night without taking any breaks)
  • Poor personal hygiene (to avoid leaving the game, addicted people tend to skip showers/baths)
  • Poor nutrition (to avoid wasting time on meals, addicted gamers often either skip meals or stock up on snacks)
  • And many more

People suffering from this condition may end up isolating themselves from others, thus negatively impacting their relationships, work/school, and even leading to financial debt. If a person is suffering from anxiety/depression, he/she might be at a higher risk of suffering from gaming disorder.

Electronic heroin

China’s been connected to the internet since 1994, and by 1997 it had a total of 620,000 Internet users, and by 2018, 710 million – making China the largest online community in the world. In a relatively short time, the number of users and internet addicts in the nation grew substantially. Today, gaming and internet addiction is dubbed electronic heroin in China, but why?

Behavioral addiction disorder affects the same part of the brain’s reward system as drugs, or other chemical substances, such as highly addictive heroin. People suffering from this condition experience withdrawal symptoms that are similar to the withdrawal symptoms of chemical substance addiction, and take immense pleasure in the act of gaming. Feelings of advancement in the game, scoring points, and passing levels add to the overall euphoria of playing the game.

Confessions of addicted adolescents suggest that pressure from parents might be a reason why so many Chinese teens retreat to the internet. High hopes are put on the only child to be successful in school and later on in life, and teens might not know how to cope with such stress other than to escape from it.

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Fighting internet gaming addiction in China

An estimated 11% of the Chinese youth population is addicted to the internet and gaming. The rate is higher than the worldwide incidence rate of 6%. This number is alarming, but China has taken a number of steps to wage war against internet gaming addiction.

China was the first country to classify internet addiction as a clinical disorder in 2008, and as such, teens who suffer from the condition and its side effects are eligible to receive medication as treatment. Many parents turn to, as of now still not regulated and highly controversial internet boot camps, where they believe their children will be cured of the disorder. Such centers offer a combination of military discipline, drugs, and psychotherapy, and in most cases are privately held.

The Government is also enforcing behavioral conditioning treatment by regulating the time young people can spend playing online games – and banning playing online games completely from 12 am to 8 am.

Treatment of gaming disorder

As with most addictive disorders, gaming disorder can be treated by using psychological treatments such as individual, group, or family therapy, behavior modification, cognitive therapy, and recreation therapy, to name just a few options. Sometimes, depression, anxiety, and other mental disorders accompany gaming disorder, and as such medications can be prescribed to address these conditions first.

Gaming disorder and insurance

When searching for insurance in China or worldwide that would cover internet, gaming, or other types of behavioral disorders, you should first look for mental health benefits in the policy. Please bear in mind, however, that not many insurers offer competitive mental health benefits, and they usually do not cover addiction treatment if the condition is not classified as a disease.

It’s also worth noting that any diagnosed mental illness will be treated as a pre-existing condition, meaning the disorder will either be excluded when purchasing a new policy, or subjected to a loading (an extra payment on top of the premium). If you need further assistance in finding an addiction treatment program in China that is covered by your insurance, or looking for an insurance plan that will cover treatment for addictive disorders, Pacific Prime China’s experts are available to discuss your insurance options. Contact us today!

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