Revised List of Mental Health Disorders Affects Transgender, Higher Education Community

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The World Health Organization (WHO) approved several major revisions to its list of diagnosable medical conditions, known as the International Classification of Diseases and Related Health Problems (ICD), this week. The changes include mental health conditions and disorders that directly affect marginalized populations and higher education communities.

Most notably, WHO voted to remove “gender identity disorder” from the ICD. Until now, the term had been used to refer to transgender or gender nonconforming identities and had been categorized as a mental disorder. In the eleventh edition of the ICD (ICD-11), which will take effect in 2022, these identities will be referred to as “gender noncongruence” and will be covered under the manual’s section on sexual, rather than mental, health.

As the medical authority for the United Nations, WHO’s decision has the potential to improve healthcare for transgender people all over the world, LGBTQ advocates say. This is especially true in areas where the process for obtaining gender confirmation surgery and other services is based on outdated, prejudicial medical frameworks, according to an article in Time.

Members of WHO’s World Health Assembly also voted this week to add some conditions to the ICD-11 to which members of the higher education community may be especially prone, including video game addiction. Prior research has found that these games are a popular coping mechanism for stress and loneliness among young college students and that teenage boys may be more prone genetically to gaming addictions than other demographics.

While WHO cautions that “gaming disorder” is a rare condition, experts say college counselors should be aware of warning signs that a student is no longer in control of their compulsion to play. Skipping class, declining grades, and sleep deprivation due to gaming are indicators that a student has developed an unhealthy dependence on this activity.

ICD-11 will also include professional “burn-out” as a medical diagnosis. The condition, which has long been identified as a significant problem in healthcare and research professions, refers to the stress and exhaustion resulting from overwork and high-pressure work environments. It is often associated with anxiety and depression, declining quality of work, and attrition rates for graduate employees, academics, and diversity professionals.

WHO emphasizes that its diagnosis applies only to employment-related burnout, not symptoms related to school or personal pressures. The organization advises doctors rule out other mental health conditions, such as anxiety or mood disorders, before diagnosing a patient with burnout.

Experts say adding this disorder to the ICD-11 clarifies what has been a vague concept in medical and professional environments and is an important step forward in improving mental health awareness.