The NHS has announced the launch of the country’s first specialist clinic for children and young adults who are seriously addicted to computer games, such as Fortnite, Candy Crush and Call of Duty.

The new Centre for Internet and Gaming Disorders, which will also provide support for internet addiction, is part of the National Centre for Behavioural Addictions and is located alongside the National Problem Gambling Clinic.

The new service will open at the same time as a gambling addiction service for children and young persons goes live.

The launch of the clinic comes amid growing concerns about the amount of time children and teenagers spend playing online games and the impact it can have on their mental health.

GPs will be able to refer patients for treatments through both young people’s services, starting in October 2019.

Reports suggest that patients aged between 13 and 25 who are referred for treatment will be able to attend in person or via an online consultation with psychiatrists and clinical psychologists.

The World Health Organization recently classified gaming disorder as a mental health condition for the first time.

Gaming disorder is defined by the World Health Organization as a pattern of persistent or recurrent gaming behaviour so severe that it takes “precedence over other life interests”.

Symptoms include impaired control over gaming, increased priority to gaming and continuation or escalation of gaming despite negative consequences — such as the impact on relationships, social life, studying and work life or spiralling financial costs.

Many countries are grappling with the issue of gaming and internet addiction. In South Korea the Government has introduced a law banning access for children under 16 from online games between midnight and 6am.

In Japan, players are alerted if they spend more than a certain amount of time each month playing games and, in China, internet giant Tencent has limited the hours that children can play its most popular games.

Last reviewed 9 October 2019