China: electroshock therapy halted as treatment for Internet "addiction"

The Chinese Ministry of Health has allegedly put an end to the use of electroshock treatments as a treatment for teenage "Internet addiction." Apparently, a clinic in Linyi, Shandong has been conducting the "treatment." According to a China Daily article, "Internet addiction is a growing problem in China... Many adolescents... spend several hours each day playing computer games." That's it? From China Daily:
The China Daily reported last month that more than 3,000 young people were tricked or forced into in to the four-month long course. To enroll their children, parents or guardians had to sign a contract acknowledging that they would be given electric shocks of up to 200 milliamperes. The treatment cost 6,000 yuan ($878) per month. Patients were considered “cured” or “reborn” once they admitted to their addiction.
"Ministry halts controversial electrotherapy program for Internet addicts" (via Fortean Times)


  1. Everyone keeps worrying about China taking over the world. Even the Chinese are looking forward to it.

    But when you’re mediaeval, how can you?

    Internet addiction! Weighs more than a duck.

  2. These methods of “treatment” are ridiculous. They used electro shock therapy on my gma and all it did was make her lose her memory and scared of the doctors. It doesn’t do any good in my opinion. Maybe if the Chinese keep doing this, then we can brainwash them! Chinese drones.

  3. I suppose it all depends on where exactly you attach the electrodes… (see Tom Sharpe’s hilarious satire “Indecent Exposure”)

  4. Electroshock therapy has been coming back in vogue in recent years as a treatment for various psychiatric illnesses, in particular severe depression that has resisted treatment for any means. I’ve read articles by people who swear by it. To me, it seems pretty crude–basically the equivalent of getting an error on your computer and just turning it off and then back on again to “fix” it. To be fair, though, I haven’t studied the literature for controlled studies on its effectiveness.

    I couldn’t tell from the article, though, if they were actually applying it to the alleged addicts’ brains. It read more like aversion therapy (e.g., punishment for sitting in a chair without permission!), in which case the main goal is pain and the sadist in question could apply the current to whatever body part they wanted.

  5. electroshock as used for depression was a huge jolt to the brain, a lot of this aversion therapy crap is just somatic torture. In China you can always find someone wanting to make a buck regardless of how and there are millions of anxious parents with one son and one shot at the all important school exam.

  6. wilterbillington,


    yeah, we haven’t applied electroshock ‘therapy’ as a treatment of questionable efficacy here in the States since at least… um…. yeah, today.

  7. Back in 87 when I lived in China the Government announced that they would not longer prosecute homosexuals, but would actually start treating them with electroshock.

    From the context it was clear that this was supposed to appear foreward-thinking and enlightened.

  8. failing college exams or being gay and heirless, if it weren’t those it would be something else. The chief joy of a Chinese parent is lamenting their ungrateful children.

  9. This whole story has struck me as odd. It’s not a “Chinese” thing any more than ex-gay or Scientologist “treatments” are federal programs. There’s just been a curious nativist propaganda angle to this. Pardon my French, but I just hear this as “Those wacky Chinks and their authoritarian ways!”

    There are churches all across the US doing stuff like this and worse, all the time. Provo Canyon, anyone?

  10. I didn’t find the article to state whether this treatment was Electro Convulsive Therapy (known as ECT), or if it was a shock delivered while the individual was awake and aware. I have the feeling it was the latter as they said they used the treatment for “aversion therapy”. Basically a punishment.

    ECT, as practiced in the US and I assume other nations where it is used to treat med resistant depression, the whole procedure is done with the patient put under with a general anesthetic. After that is administered a muscle relaxant is also given. When the patient is under a current is run across the (I think) the frontal lobes. It causes a seizure (kind of a brain reset as someone else compared it to above). The muscle relaxant keeps the patient from thrashing about and hurting themselves. The only immediate physical side effect is, at times, a light headache.

    That being said, there are a number of troubling side effects. The biggest being that your short term memories don’t wind up in long term storage for the most part.

    In my personal experience, the short term memory loss was strong. Things like reading a book, being 200 pages in and suddenly wondering how the story got to where it was. I also experienced a good deal of retrograde amnesia which was the most bothersome side effect. I lost memories stretching back years and all the way into my childhood.

    For me, the treatment was completely ineffectual. I had several series of it with no positive outcome.

    I have met people for whom it was a medical miracle though. They snapped right out of a deepest major depressions that were untreatable even after several drugs and therapy were tried.

    Thought about posting this anonymously, but I try to consider my mental illness as no “weirder” than someone with other long term conditions such as diabetes.

  11. Thought about posting this anonymously, but I try to consider my mental illness as no “weirder” than someone with other long term conditions such as diabetes.

    Many of the most ‘normal’ are just better at masking it.

  12. About electroshock, my expert opinion of the scene from the video presented with the article of and information from it is not about ECT but something probably comparable to transcranial direct current stimulation.

    The so-called Internet addiction is in many cases not an ailment, but just a symptom of some deeper problem. An explanation for Internet addiction could be a creative manner of censorship by the Chinese government. Internet is a relatively new phenomena in China, a side effect of its booming economy and technological advances, but how to control this development and how to fit it in with its communist government?

    The Internet Addiction Treatment Center in China use a blend of therapy and military drills to treat the children with “Internet addiction”. Mostly government-funded center, run by officials. There are a handful of clinics treating patients with Internet addictions in China.

    Further reading at:

    Kind regards Dr Shock

  13. Zig:
    That was actually interesting. I’ve heard that there’s some sort of low-level electrical therapy that’s being used to treat depression and other disorders these days, so it was cool hearing about it.

    As for posting anonymously, well, seems to me at least one good thing about the US is that we’re coming to realize that a huge variety of “mental” illness are actually physical diseases impacting the brain. Seems to make as much sense as saying someone with cancer is “weird”…

    (On the other hand, I am regularly suprised to encounter people who still believe that schizophrenics and merely “crazy”…)

  14. #12

    Thanks for that insight Zig, and for the accurate and thoughtful information. I’d like to add that a lot of ECT is now done unilaterally as opposed to bilaterally in order to reduce the memory problems. Having said that I had a client how had endured over 300 ECT sessions, at one time every three days. This person had a LOT of problems, and I felt that some were influenced by the aggressive ECT such as profound memory problems. ECT is used regularly where I live. I don’t agree with all of its applications.

  15. is this treatment only for people playing games ? or people who work behind computer for hours on daily basis gets some of this too …

  16. @#18 Thanks for the info on unilateral ECT. I may consider that at some point in the future if and my doctor believe it might be worth a shot.

    I won’t, however, do the bilateral again. I wouldn’t want to lose more of my memory. Also (failed to note this before), I had a heck of a time figuring things out or learning new things for a good two years after treatments were stopped.

  17. What’s the treatment for people who think electroshock “cures” every transgressive behavior? I mean, you know, what voltage is ideal for them?

  18. @#22 — I have no idea what voltage they are using in the practice described in the article. As they are using electric shocks for aversion it is most likely different than ECT.

    ECT uses about 800 milliamps over 1 to 6 seconds duration to induce a seizure.

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