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NHS will fund first internet addiction clinic

Written by  Jun 23, 2018

The NHS is set to fund an internet addiction centre - with a focus on gaming disorders.

According to The Guardian, the Central and North West London NHS foundation trust is behind the Centre for Internet Disorders, which will initially focus on gaming addiction. The idea is it will offer treatment and advice to families as well as conduct research.

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Gaming addiction was thrust into the headlines earlier in June after it emerged "gaming disorder" could become a proper medical condition - should a draft of the World Health Organisation's updated International Classification of Diseases manual be approved unamended roughly a year from now.

A proposed definition of gaming disorder appeared in the newest version of the International Classification of Diseases - the 11th revision of which is in development and has been for a few years.

The current version of ICD-11 defines "gaming disorder" as:

"Characterised by a pattern of persistent or recurrent gaming behaviour, which may be online or offline, manifested by: 1) impaired control over gaming (e.g., onset, frequency, intensity, duration, termination, context); 2) increasing priority given to gaming to the extent that gaming takes precedence over other life interests and daily activities; and 3) continuation or escalation of gaming despite the occurrence of negative consequences.

"The behaviour pattern is of sufficient severity to result in significant impairment in personal, family, social, educational, occupational or other important areas of functioning. The pattern of gaming behaviour may be continuous or episodic and recurrent. The gaming behaviour and other features are normally evident over a period of at least 12 months in order for a diagnosis to be assigned, although the required duration may be shortened if all diagnostic requirements are met and symptoms are severe."

The WHO's inclusion of gaming disorder comes at a time of heightened scrutiny of video games by the mainstream media following the astonishing breakout success of Fortnite. With Fortnite hugely popular among young people as well as adults, the mainstream media has been quick to blame Epic's battle royale the game for a raft of social ills - including bad behaviour in children.

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Dr Henrietta Bowden-Jones.

It's in this context that the NHS plans to fund a gaming addiction clinic who's initial goal is to protect young people from dropping out of school.

"Gaming disorder is finally getting the attention it deserves," the clinic's founder, psychiatrist Henrietta Bowden-Jones, told The Guardian.

"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.

"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."

Not everyone is happy with the WHO's inclusion of gaming disorder as a proper medical condition. As you'd expect, it's caused concern across the games industry - so much so global gaming organisations have come together to issue a joint statement calling on the WHO to reconsider "significant opposition" from the medical and scientific community. "The evidence for its inclusion remains highly contested and inconclusive," reads the statement.

Irrespective of the WHO's final decision, it looks like the Centre for Internet Disorders will launch, with funding already confirmed for a weekly therapy group for gaming addicts. Extra funding will come from the NHS, research grants and philanthropic sources, Bowden-Jones said.

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