United Kingdom’s First Gaming Addiction Center Swamped With Patients During COVID-19 Pandemic

Opened in 2019, The National Centre for Gaming Disorders is the first gaming addiction center in the United Kingdom, opened after the World Health Organization classified “gaming disorder” as a mental health condition, and it has been overwhelmed with referrals from schools, general practitioners, and parents. Over a third of patients referred to the center are still awaiting treatment after referrals doubled in the past year following an unprecedented demand during the pandemic.  

The center reported that around 70% of those treated since it opened were aged 18 or under and nearly 90% were male and that an enormous amount of shooting games, including Fortnite and Call of Duty, were identified by patients as titles they regularly played.

Professor Henrietta Bowden-Jones, director of the center, warned that it needed to triple its workforce to treat the more than 100 patients on its waiting list and to meet future demand, which is expected to increase in 2022. The center can currently treat 50 patients a year.

Patients receive a series of sessions of therapy, which parents sometimes join. Bowden-Jones said the addictions can often reveal a deeper disruption in family dynamics.

Treatments avoid banning devices, instead, they impose a limit of two hours a day and reward positive behavior, such as completing homework or exercising, with gaming. Around half of UK players said gaming made them feel happier, with 39% reporting it helped with isolation during the pandemic.

“It has become impossible to [stop them playing games], they just wouldn’t engage in the treatment, for a lot of them it is their only social interaction,” Bowden-Jones said.

(All information was provided by The Financial Times)

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