Thursday , June 1 2023

Are you addicted to video games? In the Netherlands you can rehabilitate yourself in a clinic


Children in a meeting

BBC Trei / Tomasz Frymorgen

The Yes We Can Clinic organizes meetings with its patients to talk about what they feel.

I'm in the most intense group therapy session I've been staying in. It's a "circle for sharing experiences" of 20 people. Everyone except the counselor leading the session is at least five years younger than me and I'm here because I'm trying rebuild life of those who lost control.

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

One member of the group, Eva *, 19, reads a list of all time his behavior bestowed on most like.

"One: a couple of months ago I told my parents I did not want them," he says in a voiceless voice. "I hurt them a lot when I said that."

"Two: last year I cried to my lover I wanted to commit suicide".

The list goes on and on. Eve recites many things she thinks she has done wrong: she hides her feelings, she is perfectionist, and she does not have self-discipline, she says. He does not brush his teeth. He does not do sports. Sometimes they do not make a shower.
I am surprised at Eve's sincerity and, at the end of her speech, I'm starting to feel sorry for her.

Kyra, the counselor conducting the session, goes in a circle.

"Who has a comment?" He says. "Ethan *".

Ethan, a 17-year-old boy in tight jeans, returns to Eva. I wonder if he is about to give you a few words of support.

The shape of a patient

BBC Trei / Tomasz Frymorgen

Minecraft video games, World of Warcraft or Battlefield are the most famous.

"I'm tempted to say something obvious as" a good intervention or anything else, "Ethan says, brushing his hair off his face." But what were the consequences of your perfectionism? It's a bad thing if you go to the extreme, but you did Is it really? Did your life be uncontrollable? "

"I think so," Eva replies with caution. Her legs are pulled under the chair, and she shows from one person to another. Twenty pairs of eyes turn silently silently.

Kyra looks around, spit. "In what sense do you think it is based?", asks the camera.

Is there an intermission. Then another teenager, Thomas, breaks the silence.

"I think your perfectionism is related being a victim. You do not realize you made mistakes, so instead of playing the role of victim. "

my the phone vibrates loudly. I remember not looking at her in an hour, and I must consciously suppress the impulse to look at her. I hold my breath in anxiety when I look at Eve.
At first I think she's upset. My phone vibrates again. I take my pocket without thinking and put him in his place immediately.

But Eva does not cry. She does not say anything at all. The room stared at her silently. I begin to suspect she is not at all upset: she is very angry.

Kyra turns to the group.

"Who feels self-pity? ", he says.

The camera bursts into a "safe" and "absolute" choir.

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

"Yes, I want to change," says Eva, with indignation in her voice.

"Are you aware of the fact that behind your behavior has there been an attempt to attract attention?" Says Kyra Evei.

The silence passes through the room.

"Not yet," says Eva with a small voice. But I will learn.

Yes, we can clinch

BBC Trei / Tomasz Frymorgen

The cost of treatment is about $ 64,000.

Two hours ago we arrived at Yes We Can, a mental health center located on a long tree-lined avenue in a quiet corner of a southern city. When my taxi approached its imposing black doors, the trees surrounded a vast estate with extensive and well-maintained land.

This clean manor could have been made of pixel blocks in the video game Minecraft; or to offer the stage for a saga level Hitman.

This clinic is intended exclusively for people aged 13 to 25 from around the world who receive specialized treatment in mental health problems, including computer and smartphone dependency and other behavioral problems that the medical community can not classify. less.

Many of those who participate say they are addicted to them smartphones, social networks or video games.

For the first time this year, the World Health Organization formally included in June dependence on video games from the international classification of diseases (CIE).
It can be said that the treatment program in this clinic goes on: it places videogames on an equal footing with the damage caused by drugs, alcohol and gambling, and asks those who complete 10-week program abstains from everyone for the rest of their lives.

The debate over whether smart phones and video games are dependent is almost there when it exists.

It's a theme that founder Jan Willem Poot, 42, thinks he's growing. He set up the clinic in 2010 to fill what he perceived as a market gap and launched a Dutch mental health center that offers personalized treatment to young people.

"I was inspired by the slogan Barack Obama's campaignsays smiling.

Jan Willem Poot

BBC Trei / Tomasz Frymorgen

Jan Willem Poot was inspired by the message of Obama's campaign for the name of his clinic: Yes We Can.

It's pure enthusiasm. I think it is a strong contrast to how your life should have been during your adolescence when I've consumed up to eight grams of cocaine a day.

Drug and alcohol cleanup in 2004, Willem founded the clinic to help young people overcome their mental health problems. So it was a surprise to him when the first youngsters who arrived at his clinic often said they were addicted to Call of Duty video game, not cocaine.

"Every week we go to the woods," Willem said, his eyes wide. "And I had more children who said," It looks like I'm in the game World of Warcraft "or battlefield, or anything else. They thought that behind each tree or rock there was an enemy, or that behind a hill came a complete army. "

In this retreat in the middle of the forest, the first group day activity is a tree trail. Thomas, who has shown Eve as a victim, does not enjoy it.

"It's so unstable!"

It's a twenty-year birthday. They attached him to a safety harness and suspended him in the middle of a staircase in the woods.

"I can not do it! I hate heights.

Thomas begins to keep the tears back. It is about six meters from the ground, two steps from the tree-platform. He is not far, but he does not want to pass.

– You can do it, Thomas! James cries out in London.

Thomas descends the stairs and rubs his face. I'm approaching him. He is breathing heavily and his cheeks red. I wonder why he came here.

"Mainly, for a game addiction," he says, moving the climbing harness in motion. "But also because of an eating disorder and perhaps a pornographic addiction is also still under debate."
Thomas is in the sixth week of the clinic. The most difficult thing he has done since he arrived is to delete his video game accounts.

"I sweat and I cried when I did it," he says. "Even if it was a problem, I still have good memories of my video game scene and the people I met there."

Over the past six weeks, Thomas has learned Enjoy outdoor activities, something I rarely experienced when I played 16 hours a day.

I'm impressed by Thomas, who seems to be caring, self-aware, strong and vulnerable at the same time. At an age in which many other 19 years are facing the first years of their home, drinking and celebrating, they have a future they could not imagine a year ago.

I wonder when Thomas takes the microphone and performs a perfect interpretation of Rag God for Eminem: a six-minute, 1,500-word rap that contains some of the rapper's fastest lyrics.

The other children cheer them all the time.

A patient in the forest

BBC Trei / Tomasz Frymorgen

The program, for young people aged between 13 and 25, lasts for 10 weeks.

There is something about karaoke that seems strange to me for reasons I do not immediately understand.

Then I realize it's obvious: this is a group of teenagers and twenty who are completely awake, singing in a tent in the light of the day. At this point, looks younger than I am.

that young people from wealthy families who can afford private treatment, those who receive scholarships abroad are in some way lucky. People in disadvantaged environments face an increased risk of developing mental health problems and have far fewer options to get treatment.

The price is around $ 64,000.

There is more and more evidence that young people from all Western environments face a the mental health crisis.

In recent years there has been the strong increase in anxiety and depression disorders.

An investigation by the Institute for Educational Policy in London suggests that the number of visits to UK mental health services has increased by 26% over the last five years.

The child plays

Chesnot / Getty

Dependence on video games has not ceased to grow in recent years.

Jean Twenge suspects that there may be a common denominator. In her iGen book, the psychology professor argues that adolescent behavior and emotional states have experienced a dramatic change after 2012.

That year, he wrote, it was exactly when the proportion The Americans holding a very smart phoneor 50%.

Young people are "at the edge of the worst the mental health crisis in decades, "he wrote,[y] Much of this damage can be attributed to their phones. "

Twenge has found a correlation between increasing the use of smartphones and increasing depression and loneliness among young people.
He also explains that after 2007, the year the iPhone was released, young Americans have seen a decline in socialization, dating and sex.

Adolescents have more free time than ever, he wrote. "So what do you do all the time?" They look at their phones in their room alone and often in distress.

Stairs in the center

BBC Trei / Tomasz Frymorgen

Some children in the center admit they spent up to 16 hours playing a day.

However, not everyone agrees. Dr. Pete Etchells, professor of psychology at the University of Bath in Bath, UK, says Jean Twenge's book presents the connection between smartphones and depression, but not that one causes the other.

She warns us of the risk of medical behaviors that are not recognized as mental health problems.


Research on computer dependence or smartphone, social networks and misery caused by video games are still in preliminary stages of study.

"In the case of cocaine use or heroin, we see clearly what the damage is causing," he says.

"However, research into addiction to video games does not do a good job of distinguishing between people who are very involved, but they do not suffer problems and people become problematic."


BBC Trei / Tomasz Frymorgen

I wonder if Dr. Etchells is right? There may be a risk of over-aggregation. During this visit I met many young people with serious problems. Are they sick enough? And anyway, how do you know if someone is "pretty sick"?

Then I sit down to interview Ethan, who has been in the clinic for almost 10 weeks. He is friendly and charismatic, completely different, he says, to the person he was when he arrived.

"I was afraid of everyone," he says.

Ethan speaks to me with the honesty of everyone I know there. He tells me what he did on his day before coming to this clinic.

"I woke up at six in the afternoon," he says. "I woke up at night. It's more comfortable. Fewer people around. When my parents slept, I went down and ate something.

What happened when your parents discovered you?

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

Serious traumas from childhood

My phone vibrates again. I feel like a WhatsApp message avalanche comes to me. For a moment I'm completely distracted. Consciously, I turned my attention to Ethan.

Ethan spends a lot of time crying in his room. I had panic attacks. He's hurt. He was drugged with "everything that fell into my hands," and played video games throughout the night. At 15, has left school.

"I thought I was fucked for life," he says.

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

Later, it was discovered that Ethan was hiding something from everybody: he had severe childhood traumas.

One of the patients in the center

BBC Trei / Tomasz Frymorgen

School drop-out is common among video game addicts

The interview is over. Ethan leaves the room. It seems to me that although the people I met were extremely open to their behavior until my meeting with Ethan I knew too much about their past.

Jan Willem comes in with the phone in his hand. I'm checking my own phone and I feel a mixture of disappointment and embarrassment when I see the blank screen. I imagined the vibrations. I am a millenary cheating without friends.

Is it a pleasure to get a notification on your mobile phone?I ask you. Jan Willem smiles.

"Yes, of course," he says.

Is it a sign of addiction? How do you protect children from this?

"We sometimes advise children to leave social networks," says Jan Willem. "But we never recommend total abstinence from them."

WhatsApp and social networks

"Because there in the world they will need their phones and laptops, I have a Facebook account and a LinkedIn account that I use mainly for my business and it's true I'm addicted, but it's true and I have to use them ".

I have my own handset because I use the built-in recorder to record the conversation. The screen lights up. It is a notification and I am aware that I have to open it.

Does it make me addicted? I got it WhatsApp? If I was not going to work, could I spend more hours sending the ego to Snapchat? And could I transfer this to games, alcohol, drugs?

I look at Jan Willem and try to imagine a life in which I consume 8 cows a day.

*Some names have been changed.

You can read the original story in English here.

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