No more shock treatment for Chinese web addicts

China has banned the use of electric shock treatment for internet addiction. How enlightened.

Last Updated: 31 Aug 2010

The Ministry of Health’s decision followed reports about Dr Yang Yongxin, a psychiatrist in Linyi in the country’s Shandong Province, using electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) on 3,000 teenagers in a bid to pry their fingers from their mice.

China has 300m internet users, the largest number in the world, and the government has become increasingly concerned that excessive internet use is not good for them. Internet addiction has been blamed for everything from lower academic performance to disrupted family life, especially among the young.

In a country where both the state and families still place considerable restrictions on what people can do, chatrooms, online gaming and social networking are looked on as providing dangerous levels of freedom and escape.

Last year the country’s doctors formally defined internet addicts. They were, it said, those who spend over six hours a day online, find difficulty socialising, concentrating or sleeping and have a desire to be online when they are offline. Others have said however that this definition is neither helpful nor precise - aware no doubt, that in places like Silicon Valley, such ‘vices’ are essential components of any and every CV.

Still, in capitalist China, hundreds of organisations have sprung up to treat the new epidemic. These offer everything from army training style boot camps to more conventional psychology and medicines to combat depression and anxiety.

Dr Yongxin claimed that his therapy, which he referred to as ‘brainwaking’, worked by applying a small current to the brain; adding that, while it may cause a little pain, it was entirely safe.  The treatment cost around £500 per month and the preferred term was ‘pulse therapy.’ Not ECT.

However, the ministry of health finally did the decent thing, pulling the plug on the good Dr Yongxin - perhaps having realised that the cure in this case might just have been worse than the disease.

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No more shock treatment for Chinese web addicts

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