The UK's first rehabilitation clinic for people addicted to gaming has opened in Weston-super-Mare.
According to the the Telegraph, gaming addiction can lead to "malnutrition, relationship breakdown and postural problems". The rise of online gaming is said to have led to an increase in the number of addictions.
Now Broadway Lodge, a clinic which usually treats people for problems with drink, drugs and gambling, is taking on those who can't put down their controller. Gaming addicts take part in a 12-step programme which involves activities such as group therapy, watching videos, and "therapeutic tasks including vacuuming and washing up".
Bossman Brian Dudley said patients have included a 23 year-old man who was playing games on his PC for up to eight hours per session until his parents intervened.
''We developed a treatment for him which followed the 12-step (abstinence) approach, but you can't tell someone never to use the internet again," Dudley said. ''So we go through all the issues surrounding gaming use and ensure there are triggers through which an addict recognises their usage has become a problem."
Symptoms of gaming addiction, Dudley reckons, include becoming more aggressive, irregular eating and sleeping habits and social exclusion. Research into how many people suffer in this way is ongoing, "'But I would stick my neck out and say between five and ten per cent of parents or partners would say they know of someone addicted to an online game," said Dudley.
Broadway Lodge counsellor Peter Smith said some people can become so absorbed by online games they forget to eat, "And drift towards an anorexic and undernourished state."
He added, "You have a relationship with characters in the game that give you an artificial feeling, created by your body's natural endorphins, when you have killed some monster or solved a problem."
ELSPA boss Michael Rawlinson spoke out in defence of gaming, saying, ''Playing video games is becoming increasingly mainstream in the UK and we firmly believe in the positive impact playing games can have.''