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Last Updated: Tuesday, 18 July 2006, 14:17 GMT 15:17 UK
Videogame addiction clinic opens
Games addicts receive treatment
The clinic tries to find replacement activities for addicts
A clinic that offers treatment for people addicted to playing computer games has opened in the Netherlands.

The service, run by addiction consultancy Smith and Jones, offers a program lasting up to eight weeks.

The clinic estimates that up to 20% of gamers, many of which are children, could develop a dependency.

Compulsive gamers have similar symptoms to gambling addicts, they say, and risk damage to relationships, health, education and their careers.

"I lived in my room. I have 4 televisions around me, with one X-Box 360, PlayStation 2, X-Box 1 and a Game Cube and a lap-top, where I can play online games," said Tim, a 21 year old who has received treatment at the clinic.

Tim played games for up to 17 hours a day.

"I have no social life, I have no friends - only cyber-friends"

Obsessive behaviour

The new eight-bed residential clinic in Amsterdam was set up in response to a growing demand for people with gaming addictions. It is the first of its kind in Europe.

Initially gaming was a secondary issue for many of the patients who came to the clinic to seek help for other addictions.

We help them find other ways to deal with life and they begin to develop true self esteem.
Keith Bakker, consultant

Eventually the sheer number of addicts forced the clinic to set up a dedicated programme.

"They kept on coming in so we started taking it more and more seriously," said Keith Bakker, an addiction consultant at the centre.

Addicted gamers display many symptoms, including obsessive thinking and health problems. Others may use stimulants to keep awake during gaming marathons.

Some who play online multiplayer games may feel extreme guilt about leaving fellow gamers if they switch their console off.

Last year a man in South Korea died after spending 50 hours playing an online game.

Addicts may also experience "time warps" where all other activities are replaced with gaming. This can take extreme forms.

Tim could not even wrestle himself away from the screen for long enough to go to the toilet.

"I take an empty bottle and I pee into it," he said.

The treatment involves a period of detox when patients are not allowed access to any computer games.

This is followed by group therapy and sessions with psychologists, psychiatrists and therapists.

The clinic also tries to find replacement activities to fill the void left by giving up gaming.

"We help them find other ways to deal with life and they begin to develop true self esteem," says Mr Bakker.

A look inside the centre to help computer game addicts

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