Doctors launch the first NHS internet addiction clinic as concerns build over dangerous online video games
- Clinic will help adults and children as young as nine with gaming disorders
- If approved by managers it could be extended to pornography and social media
- It comes after world health bosses classed gaming as a mental health issue
Doctors are set to launch the first NHS internet addiction clinic amid fears over dangerous online video games.
The clinic will help adults and children with gaming disorders, with children as young as nine needing help for addictions to violent video games such as Fortnite.
If approved by managers, it will be run by an NHS foundation trust in London, and could also help people obsessed with pornography and social media.
Dr Henrietta Bowden-Jones, the consultant psychiatrist behind the centre, is seeking NHS funding to tackle the growing number of compulsive internet users.
It comes after the World Health Organisation classed ‘gaming disorder’ as a mental health condition for the first time.
Doctors are set to launch the first NHS internet addiction clinic amid fears over dangerous online video games. File image used
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Growing numbers of children are said to be compulsive internet users in Britain.
In recent weeks fears have grown over computer games such as Fortnite, with the parents of a nine-year-old girl speaking of their horror as she stayed up until 5am and wet herself to avoid taking a break from the game.
A ten-year-old boy was left deformed by his video game addiction, suffering a dilated bowel because he stopped himself from going to the toilet so he could carry on playing.
The NHS clinic currently has funding for a weekly therapy group for gaming addicts, according to Dr Bowden-Jones, and will later expand into other internet addictions.
The consultant psychiatrist told The Guardian: ‘Gaming disorder is finally getting the attention it deserves.
The distress and harm it can cause is extreme and I feel a moral duty on behalf of the NHS to provide the evidence-based treatment these young people and their families need.’
The NHS clinic will help adults and children with gaming disorders, with children as young as nine needing help for addictions to violent video games such as Fortnite
Dr Bowden-Jones runs the National Problem Gambling Clinic, within the Central and North West London NHS Foundation Trust.
The trust is now preparing to launch the internet addiction clinic, and said it ‘hopes’ it will be financed using taxpayers money through the NHS.
The plans have been discussed at a senior level but not yet by the board.
The World Health Organisation defines gaming disorder as a behaviour pattern which significantly impairs people’s personal, family and social lives, education or work and has lasted for at least 12 months.
While experts disagree on the severity of gaming disorders, some studies suggest as many as 50 per cent of video game players may be affected.
Fortnite alone has more than 125 million players worldwide, with parents claiming it turns normally placid children into gun-obsessed thugs.
Dr Bowden-Jones plans to start off treating gaming disorders to prevent young people dropping out of school through compulsive gaming.
She said: ‘This is the first step, but the Centre for Internet Disorders will deal with other internet compulsions, if and when needed, when funding is available.
‘If we end up with 20 people or 30 wanting to be treated for porn addiction, for example… if we have got the funding for that then we could provide help.’
Britain has private clinics providing treatment for internet and gaming addiction, but no NHS centres offer care for free.
If approved by managers, it will be run by an NHS foundation trust in London, and could also help people obsessed with pornography and social media. File image used
Dr Bowden-Jones said recent research from California State University found that addictive video games affect the structure of children’s brains in the same way as alcoholism or drug abuse.
Dr Mark Griffiths, a professor of behavioural addiction at Nottingham Trent University, said children were ‘being introduced to gambling-like behaviours’ by some video games.
His comments followed a study of 22 popular video games by psychologists in New Zealand, including FIFA and Call of Duty.
The authors, writing in the Nature Human Behaviour journal, said the games met ‘psychological definitions’ of gambling due to ‘loot boxes’ which contain rewards such as weapons and changes to players’ characters.
But other experts say classifying gaming addiction as a mental health condition is not based on solid evidence.
Professor Andy Przybylski, of Oxford University, said: ‘Children do have a right to information, and so if we’re worried about the internet or technology or screens, and we’re taking them away, there is an argument to be made that we are violating their human rights.’
It comes after the World Health Organisation classed ‘gaming disorder’ as a mental health condition for the first time. File image used
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