The head of Europe's first treatment center for gaming addicts has revealed that 90% of young people who seek counseling for compulsive gaming habits aren't actually addicts at all. Keith Bakker of The Smith & Jones Centre in Amsterdam explains that while a gamers who show other addictive behaviors such as drinking or taking drugs have been successfully treated using traditional abstinence-based treatment models, the vast majority of compulsive gamers have a social problem, rather than a psychological one.
"This gaming problem is a result of the society we live in today," Mr Bakker told BBC News. "Eighty per cent of the young people we see have been bullied at school and feel isolated. Many of the symptoms they have can be solved by going back to good old fashioned communication."
Responding to this realization, The Smith & Jones Centre is now changing it's treatment plan for compulsive gamers, moving away from substance-abuse type methods in favor of a plan involving activity-based social and communication skills, to help players interact better with the real world. The BBC article this story originates from goes on to speak to a gamer called "George" who sought help at the center to help overcome his 10 hour-a-day Call of Duty 4 habit.
"I liked gaming because people couldn't see me, they accepted me as my online character - I could be good at something and feel part of a group." Underlying that new sense of belonging was a young man who felt powerless and neglected in real life. "I was aware that I played too much but I didn't know what to do. But it helped me because I could be aggressive and get my anger and frustration out online," he says.
Bakker believes that the key to keeping this sort of thing from happening lies with parents communicating with their children, which is the old-fashioned way of preparing them for the real world, back before electronic babysitting was invented. He also warns of the dangers of continuing to refer to compulsive gaming as an addiction.
"If I continue to call gaming an addiction it takes away the element of choice these people have," he says. "It's a complete shift in my thinking and also a shift in the thinking of my clinic and the way it treats these people."
Compulsive gamers 'not addicts' [BBC News]