Gaming addicts seek help abroad

Author: Mark Gould

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Teenagers from England and Wales who are addicted to gaming are travelling to private clinics overseas for treatment due to a lack home grown services, the Guardian reports.

Gaming addiction, was listed and defined as a condition in the 11th edition of International Classification of Diseases in June last year. The first NHS gaming addiction clinic, The Centre for Internet Disorders, run by the Central and North West London NHS Foundation Trust, is set to open in October.

In the meantime, the newspaper reports that Yes We Can, Europe’s sole children-only rehabilitation clinic for gaming addiction, says it has been treating an increasing number of young people from Britain.

Gaming disorder is defined by the World Health Organisation as a pattern of persistent or recurrent gaming behaviour so severe that it takes “precedence over other life interests”. Symptoms include impaired control over gaming and continuation or escalation of gaming despite negative consequences.

The Dutch clinic treated 30 people for gaming addiction in 2016 and 90 in 2018. So far this year 55 young people have sought help with the problem, including six from the UK.

Jan Willem Poot, 40, a former addict turned entrepreneur who set up the clinic, said it was seeing a 20-30% annual increase in people – mainly young men – coming in with gaming dependency. “Also, in the beginning it was eight to 10 hours of playing but at this moment we have got kids who game 18-19 hours a day. They sometimes go weeks without showers and are not eating.”

He said the problems were arising because games were being made more complex than in the past. “Gaming has been there for over 20 years but people never had problems with Tetris addiction or dependency to Super Mario,” he said.

The report also notes that private clinics in the UK have experienced a surge in the numbers seeking treatment. The UK Addiction Treatment Centres (Ukat), which runs seven facilities in England, reported a 37% rise in the number of patients being admitted for gaming addiction between 2017 and 2018. This year its centres were admitting on average two patients a month. It said more than half of those admitted in 2018 were aged 30 or under.

Henrietta Bowden-Jones, the director of the Centre for Internet Disorders, told the newspaper there were about 45 people on a waiting list to be treated.

“What we don’t have is a good idea of the prevalence of the problem among the population as at the moment there are no high-quality prevalence surveys for this illness in the UK. I hope to see a well-funded independent prevalence survey over the course of the next year or so,” Bowden-Jones said.

“You need to hear of the issues at ground level from the people destroying their lives with one activity or another. Then you report the issues to the people who can, if they so wish, implement preventive measures to protect the population.”

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