The UK's first rehab centre for gaming addiction has swung open its doors.
Broadway Lodge, a residential rehabilitation unit in Weston-super-Mare, treats around 400 addicts a year for a range of issues including, drink, drugs and gambling – but has now added gaming to the list of vices that it treats.
It has adapted its traditional Minnesota Method 12-Step programme – which weans people off their addictions – for gamers.
The centre claimed in the Telegraph today that between five and ten per cent of parents know of someone addicted to video games.
The centre's chief executive Brian Dudley believes treating game addiction needs a different approach to "conventional" vices like drink and drugs.
He said: You can't simply say to a 23-year-old male ‘you should never use the internet again'. It's just not practical.
''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.
''Behavioural shifts include users becoming agressive, with chaotic lifestyles that result in irregular eating and sleeping patterns as well as social exclusion.'
''I don't know anybody else who is treating such cases in this country. There's no helpline.''
Peter Smith, a counsellor at Broadway Lodge added:
''It's not unusual for people to get so obsessed with online gaming that they forget to eat and drift towards an anorexic and undernourished state," he said.
''You can play online with people around the world, so it can be at odd times of the day - when it's 5pm in Chicago or evening in Japan.
''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.''
Patients undertake group therapy, tapes, videos, therapeutic tasks including vacuuming and washing up, and recreational activities.
ELSPA director general Michael Rawlinson said: ''Playing video games is becoming increasingly mainstream in the UK and we firmly believe in the positive impact playing games can have.''