Though the treatment has been described as intense, patients with gaming disorder say it has allowed them to regain control over their lives.
About 90 minutes south of Amsterdam, Jan Willem Poot helps treat young people who have gaming and other technology addictions at the Yes We Can clinic, one of the few facilities dedicated to helping youth overcome tech addictions.
“It is safe here,” Poot told The Guardian.
Poot, who is in recovery himself, recognized the need to provide treatment for gaming addiction, especially with few other options around. His patients come for a 10-week intensive treatment, with the option for four weeks of aftercare. They’re not allowed any tech devices, or any contact with the families during the first five weeks.
Although it is intense, patients like Tom, 17, say that the treatment at the Yes We Can clinic has allowed them to regain control over their lives.
“I changed through the course of the program, slowly but surely,” Tom said. “At first I was super anxious and I could not talk to anyone, but slowly I started to open up and became comfortable. I started to face my avoidant behavior and understand why I do it. I started to open up about my past and figure things out.”
Tom, like any person with addiction, still copes with residual effects of his condition even now that he is in recovery.
“I still have a hard time. Life is not easy but I have learned to cope through the suffering and tough times,” he said.
Another patient at the clinic, Victor, 24, said that although people may be skeptical about gaming addiction, it was very real to him.
“It was helpful having treatment with other addicts. I recognized a lot of stories,” he said. “One time I heard a story from a guy who was an alcoholic, and without mentioning the word alcohol everything was my story. By seeing that it also helped me see that addiction is a wide and broad subject to talk about.”
Poot said that more and more people are seeking treatment for gaming and other tech addictions. Last year he treated 90 people for gaming addiction, up from just 30 in 2016. Halfway through 2019, 55 people have come through the program. Poot says that with screens everywhere, it’s easy for technology to become an unhealthy coping mechanism.
“They have found a way to feel better just by being in the online world because it is escapism,” he said.
He’s even seeing more people come in for treatment for social media addiction, especially teenage girls.
“That has a lot to do with personality disorder, where they are so insecure they need confirmation by sending 20-30 selfies or Instagram posts a day—they need the likes to get confirmation that they are still attractive or liked,” he explained.