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Brussels. The psychiatric department of the Saint-Luc university clinics has had a clinic for Internet and gambling disorders. Many patients have already been cared for since it opened in October 2015.

According to a 2013 study of the CLICKproject9.5% of Belgians between the ages of 12 and 17 face “compulsive” Internet use problems, 3% of which are serious. This problem would also affect 5.5% of adults, of which 1% is serious enough. “I do not usually use the terms” compulsive use “or addictive use that do not really reflect the variety of disorders related to the excessive use of information and communication technologies. In the case of problems related to an online application such as online games, porn, paris on the internet, I prefer to talk about a dysfunctional or ‘problematic’ use “insists Professor Joel Billieux of the Faculty of Psychology of UCL. This differentiation is important. In the case of a dysfunctional use of the Internet, the medical team will not generally advocate abstinence as is often the case during an addiction. “The goal is rather to find a way to control this dysfunction,” adds the professor.

The profile

According to Joël Billieux, the most frequent complaints concern the misuse of video games or pornographic sites. “For video games, in the majority of cases, it is the parents who come to consult with their children,” says the professor. “But there are more and more patients between 25 and 30 years old. With regard to the problematic use of pornographic sites, “people frequently consult with their spouse”. “But beware, there are a multitude of cases, and this especially because of the large number of online applications,” warns Joel Billieux.

From the assessment to the consultation

At first, the speaker will draw up with the person an assessment of his situation. It analyzes with it its motivations to reproduce the problematic behavior. “The goal is to assess with the patient put in place a psychological intervention,” explains Professor Joël Billieux. The presenter examines the consequences that dysfunctional use has on the patient. “The consequences on his daily life – at school, at work, with his family, or if there is a loss of control and free will, if it becomes obsessive.” “In many cases, we realize that the problems are temporary and do not require follow-up,” says the professor.

However, if followed, each treatment is different depending on the patient. The latter will be surrounded by a multidisciplinary team composed of psychologists, psychiatrists and social workers. “There can be between five and ten sessions, sometimes more, and the therapeutic techniques will depend on the patient’s situations and goals,” says Joël Billieux.

At present, the World Health Organization is asking whether this behavioral dysfunction is a public health problem. A report on this will be published very soon.

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