SAN FRANCISCO (CBS SF) – The World Health Organization is poised to classify “gaming disorder” as a mental health problem – a designation that is long overdue according to therapist Paula-Jo Husack.

The licensed marriage and family therapist told KPIX 5 that addiction to video games is a hidden, but widespread problem.

“How serious is the problem? – It’s an epidemic,” she told KPIX 5.

Gaming disorder can be diagnosed if it “is of sufficient severity to result in significant impairment in personal, family, social, educational, occupational or other important areas of functioning,” according a tentative draft of WHO’s 2018 International Classification of Diseases.

Husack said the common symptoms for children and adults include social isolation, trouble transitioning from one thought to another, reduction in empathy, loss of appetite and loss of sensory perception.

WHO said doctors can diagnose “gaming disorder” if patients have had problems for at least a year.

Gamer Joshua Parrish said taking anything to an extreme can create problems.

“Alcohol could be consumed that way, casinos, gambling,” he told KPIX 5. “Anything could be taken to that extreme.”

Robert Figone plays in video game tournaments. He says if consumed properly, video games can be a healthy form of entertainment.

“I join tournaments for competitive video games,” he said. “It’s mentally stimulating, but doesn’t hold me back from my workout everyday.”

WHO officials have not made a final decision on whether gaming disorder will indeed be included as part of the 2018 ICD.

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