Children as young as 12 will be among the first patients seen at a new NHS clinic, which is being set up to address computer game addiction.
A pilot scheme for the clinic, due to start next month, comes after the World Health Organization classified the disorder as a mental health condition in January 2018.
“Gaming disorder is finally getting the attention it deserves”
Mental health staff from Central and North West London NHS Foundation Trust are understood to have recruited around half of the patients for the trial, who are aged from 12 to 20.
The clinic is the brainchild of Dr Henrietta Bowden-Jones, a medical doctor and neuroscience researcher. She aims to recruit 15 patients for the pilot group, and hopes the clinic will open in September as a first step towards a national programme for gaming addiction.
Patients will receive free treatment and the programme will receive funding from Nottingham Trent University, a leading research centre on behavioural addiction.
The university’s early 2018 study on game addiction showed that video game addiction led to up to 16% of issues relating to obsessive-compulsive disorder and physical symptoms. Depression and anxiety were also common issues.
“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,” said Dr Bowden-Jones in The Guardian newspaper.
“We are unlikely to witness an epidemic of young players with an addiction to gaming but for the ones who do struggle, the Centre for Internet Disorders will be a life-changer,” she added.
Dr Bowden-Jones is also the founder and director of the National Problem Gambling Clinic, the first and only NHS multi-disciplinary treatment centre in the UK for treatment for gamblers.
In a statement sent to Nursing Times, the trust said: “This is a pilot that will run for eight weeks later this year with a small group using face-to-face and online sessions.
“Our aim is to better understand gaming addiction and treatment options and is in line with clinical method,” it added.