A video game addiction rehabilitation center, as if it were cocaine


I am most intense group therapy, where I sat. It is a "circle of exchange experiences" of 20 people. Everyone, except the director who directs the session, is at least five years younger than me and they are here because they are trying to build life for those who have lost control.

By sharing the group with the worst thing they have done, they want to change it.

One group member, Eva *, 19, reads the list of all times his behavior has hurt the people who most wants.

"One: a few months ago, I told my parents that I did not want them," he says with a clamorous voice. "I hurt them a lot when I said it."

"Two: Last year I screamed my boyfriend I wanted to commit suicide".

The list goes on and on. Eva repeats many things she believes to be doing wrong: she hides her feelings, she is a perfectionist and she has no self-discipline. He does not brush his teeth. It does not do sports. Sometimes I do not shower.

I am surprised by the honesty and Eve at the end of the floor, I feel sorry for her.

Kyra, the director of the session, goes to the circle.

"Who is the comment?" He says. "Ethan *".

Ethan, a 17-year-old boy with tight jeans, turns to Eva. I was wondering that he was going to offer you some after the words.

Patient shape

Video games Minecraft, World of Warcraft or Battlefield are the best known. PRESS / BBC Three / Tomasz Frymorgen

"I'm tempted to say something like" Good Intervention or whatever, "Ethan says, brushing her hair on her face." But what were the consequences of perfectionism? It's a bad thing if you take it to the utmost, but have you really done so? Was your life uncontrollable? "

"I think so," Eva responds cautiously. His legs are under the cross under the chair and he looks like a person. Twenty pairs of eyes return silently to their gaze.

Kyra looks around. "In what sense is it based?", Ask for space.

It's a break. Then another teen, Thomas *, breaks the silence.

"I think that perfectionism is connected being a victim. You do not know that you made mistakes, so instead you play the victim's position. "

my the phone vibrates vigorously. I remember not having watched it in an hour, and I must consciously stifle the impulse to look at it. I look terribly when I look at Eve.

At first, I think he is shocked. The phone rings again. I take it off my pocket without thinking and put it back in immediately.

But Eva does not cry. It does not say anything. The room looks silent. First you suspect he is not really shocked: he is really upset.

Kyra turns to the group.

"Who knows self-pity? ", He says.

The room explodes as a "safe" and "absolutely" shell.

"Do you want to change?"Kyra asks Evan.

"Yes, I want to change," Eva says when her voice is astonished.

"Do you know that your behavior was trying to get attention?" Kyra tells Eva.

Silence passes through the room.

"Not yet," Eva says with a low voice. "But I'm learning."

Yes we can at the clinic

The treatment cost about $ 64,000. PRESS / BBC Three / Tomasz Frymorgen

Two hours ago, I came to the lush green boulevard, located in a quiet corner in the south of the Netherlands. As the taxi approached its awesome black doors, the trees developed a large manor in a large and well-maintained area.

This untouched mansion could have been the pixelized blocks of video games Minecraft; or provide a stage-level saga hit man.

This clinic is only intended for people aged 13 to 25 around the world who receive special treatment for mental health problems, including dependence on computers and smartphones, as well as other behavioral disorders that the medical community can not classify. less trade.

Many of the participants say that they are dependent on them smaRtphones, social networks or video games.

For the first time this year, the World Health Organization formally participated in June dependence on video games in the international classification of diseases (CIE).

It can be said that the therapeutic program in this clinic continues: it places video games under the same conditions as drugs, alcohol and games, and requires that those who meet 10 weeks to abandon everything else in their lives.

Talking about whether smartphones and video games have caused addiction have been almost because they exist.

The theme, founded by the founder of Jan Willem Poot, 42, is believed to grow strongly. He set up a clinic in 2010 to fill in what he saw in the market and thus set up a Dutch mental health center that provided individual care for the young.

"I am inspired by the slogan Barack Obama campaign"He says with a smile.

Jan Willem Poot

Jan Willem Poot inspired Obama's campaign message at his clinic: Yes we can. PRESS / BBC Three / Tomasz Frymorgen

It's pure enthusiasm. I think it's a steep contrast to your way of life in your teens It consumed up to eight grams of cocaine per day.

Medication and Alcohol Cleaning Since 2004, Willem founded a clinic to help young people overcome their mental health problems. So it was a surprise for him when the first teenagers arrive at his clinic often say that they were hooked to the popular Call of Duty videogame, not cocaine.

"Every week we go walking in the woods," Willem says with wide eyes. "And we had several children, who said:" This looks exactly as I am playing World of Warcraft "or Battlefield, or whatever. They imagined that behind every tree or stone the enemy hated, or that behind each hill became a complete army. "

In this hike in the middle of the forest, the first group activity of the day is the way through the yard. Thomas, who had shown Eva as a victim, does not really enjoy it.

"It's so unstable!"

It's the day before her twenty-birthday. They bind him to the safety harness and interrupt him in the middle of the forest ladder.

"I can not do it! I hate the heights.

Thomas begins to curb the tears. It's about six feet from the ground, two steps from the tree. It's not far off, but it does not want to cross.

"You can do it, Thomas!" Screams James, London.

Thomas steps down the stairs and rubs his face. I approach her. She breathes heavily and the cheeks are red. I ask him why he came here.

"Mainly about addiction to the game," he says, clinging to the climbing harness. "But also because of eating disorder and maybe even for porn addiction. Well, it's still in discussion."

Thomas is in a six-week clinic. The hardest thing he has ever done is to remove the accounts of his video games.

"I was sweating and crying when I did it," she says. "Although it was a problem, I still have good memories of video games and the people I met there."

Over the past six weeks, Thomas has learned enjoy outdoor activities, something I rarely experienced while playing 16 hours a day.

I am impressed with Thomas, who is thoughtful, self-aware, strong and vulnerable at the same time. By the age when many other 19-year-olds are out of the home for the first few years, drink and drink too much, they have a future they could not imagine a year ago.

I wonder when Thomas takes the microphone and performs the full performance of Rag God for Eminem: six minute 1,500 word rap featuring some rapper's fastest verses.

The other children are always up to him.

Patient in the forest

The program lasts 10 weeks for teenagers aged 13-25. PRESS / BBC Three / Tomasz Frymorgen

Karaoke is something weird because I do not understand right away.

Then I understand that it is clear: this is a group of young people and twenty-two who are completely upright sing in the tent in daylight. At the moment they look younger than they are.

like young people in rich families who can afford private treatment, foreign scholarships are fortunate in a sense. Disadvantaged people have a greater risk of developing mental health problems and have far fewer options to receive treatment.

The price is approx $ 64,000.

There is more and more evidence that all young people in the West are confronted mental health crisis.

In recent years there has been a an increase in anxiety and depression disorders.

The London Institute's education policy study shows that the number of mental health services for children and young people in the United Kingdom has increased by 26 percent over the last five years.

The child is playing

The dependence of video games has not stopped growing in recent years. PRESS / Chesnot / Getty

Jean Twenge suspects that there may be a common denominator. As a psychologist in the book, iGen argues that young people's behavior and emotional state experienced a dramatic change after 2012.

That year, he wrote, it was also the time when the share Americans who owned a super smartphoneor 50%.

Young people are at "worst" mental health crisis decades, "he wrote,[y] Much of this deterioration is due to their phones. "

Twenge found correlation between the increase in the use of smartphones and the increase in depression and loneliness among young people.

He also says that after 2007, when the iPhone was launched, young Americans experienced a drop in socialization, dating and sex.

Teenagers have more leisure time than ever, he wrote. "What are you doing all this time? They look at the phones, their rooms alone and often anxious."

Center stairs

Some children recognize that they have used up to 16 hours a day. PRESS / BBC Three / Tomasz Frymorgen

However, everyone does not agree. Dr. Pete Etchells, professor of psychology at Bath University of Bath, UK, says that in Jean Twengen's book connection between smartphones and depression, but it does not cause the other.

It warns that we risk medical behavior that is not considered a mental health problem.


Research dependency on the computer or smartphone, social networks and video game mess are still in the early stages.

"With regard to the consumption of cocaine or heroin, we see clearly what kind of damage they cause," he says.

"The video game dependency study, however, does not do a good job of separating people who are well involved but do not suffer from problems and people for whom it is problematic."


Tomasz Frymorgen. PRESS / BBC Three /

I wonder if Dr. Etchells is right? Perhaps there is a risk of over-diagnosis. During the visit, I have met many young people who have serious problems. Are they "sick"? Anyway, how do you know if someone is "bored"?

And then I sit to interview Ethan, who has been in the clinic for nearly 10 weeks. He is kind and charismatic, totally different, he says, to the person he was when he arrived.

"I was afraid of everyone," he says.

Ethan speaks to me with the kind of honesty that I know there. She tells me what she did during the day before she came to this clinic.

"About six o'clock in the afternoon I woke up," he says. "I was staying here at night. It's nicer. Less people. When my parents slept, I went downstairs and ate something. "

What happened when your parents found you?

"Very simple," he says. "I ignored them."

Severe childhood trauma

The phone rings again. I feel that the avalanche of WhatsApp messages is coming to me. At the moment, I am totally confused. I have deliberately focused our attention on Ethaniin.

Ethan spent much time crying in his room. I had panic attacks. He hurt himself. He was bothered by "everything that fell to my hand" and I played video games all night. 15, he went to school.

"I thought I was fucking up for life," she says.

At first Etan's behavior did not even make sense to him. His parents were grateful, he says, but they did not know what to do with him.

Later, it was discovered that Ethan had hidden something from every one: he had had a serious childhood trauma.

One of the Center's patients

School rejection is common among video game addictions. PRESS / BBC Three / Tomasz Frymorgen

The interview is over. Ethan leaves the room. For me, it has become apparent that even people who I have met, have been exceptionally open their behavior, Ethan until I faced with the scene did not know a lot of their background.

Jan Willem arrives on the phone in his hand. I check my phone and I feel disappointed and confused when I see a blank screen. I was imagining vibration. I'm a millennial deceiving without friends.

Have you received a notification on the mobile phone?Please. Jan Willem smiles.

"Yes, of course, he says.

Is a sign of dependence? How do you protect children from it? I ask.

"Sometimes children are advised to leave social networks," says Jan Willem. "But we never recommend their perfection."

WhatsApp and Social Networks

"Because there, in the world, they need their phones and portable computers. I have a Facebook account and LinkedIn account, which I use mainly for my business. And the fact that I'm an addict. But it is also true that I have to use them."

I have my own phone in my hand because I use a built-in recorder to record the conversation. The display lights up. It is a statement, and I am aware that I need to open up urgently.

Is this an addict to me? I'm addicted WhatsApp? If I could not work, could I spend several hours sending selfish in Snapchat? And could I transfer it to games, alcohol, drugs?

I look at Jan Willem and try to imagine a life that consumes eight grams of cocaine per day.

*Some names have been changed.

You can read the original story in English here.

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