Yang Yongxin

Yang Yongxin (Chinese: 杨永信; born 21 June 1962) is a highly controversial[3] Chinese clinical psychiatrist who advocated and practiced electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) without anaesthesia or muscle relaxants as a cure for alleged video game and Internet addiction in adolescents.[4][5] Yang is currently deputy chief of the Fourth Hospital of Linyi (Linyi Mental Hospital), in the Shandong province of China. He runs the Internet Addiction Treatment Center at the hospital.

Yang Yongxin
Born (1962-06-21) June 21, 1962 (age 60)
Other names
  • 电击狂人杨永信; 'Electric Shock Madman Yang'[1]
  • 磁暴步兵杨永信; 'Tesla Trooper Yang'[1]
EducationYishui Medical School
EmployerThe Fourth Hospital of Linyi (Linyi Mental Hospital)
Known forUsing electroconvulsive therapy to treat teenagers who were claimed to have Internet addiction by their parents
Political partyCommunist Party of China
  • Top ten outstanding citizens for minor protection of Shandong
  • State Council Special Grant[2]

According to media reports, families of teenaged patients sent to the hospital paid CNY 5,500 (US$805) per month to be treated using a combination of psychiatric medication and ECT, which Yang dubbed as "xingnao" (Chinese: 醒脑, brain-waking) treatment.[6] He treated 3000 children before the practice was prohibited by the Chinese Ministry of Health.[6] Yang claimed that 96% of his patients had shown signs of improvement, a figure that was questioned by the Chinese media. Since the ban, Yang has used 'low-frequency pulse therapy', a treatment of his own devising alleged by former patients to be more painful than ECT.[7] In 2016, the center claimed to have treated more than 6000 adolescents.[8]

Early lifeEdit

Yang was born in June 1962 in the Chinese city of Linyi, Shandong province. He graduated from Yishui Medical School, a vocational school in Yishui, Shandong, with a degree in Clinical Medicine in 1982. Yang was assigned by the state to the Fourth Hospital of Linyi (also known as Linyi Mental Hospital), where he specialized in treating schizophrenia, depression, anxiety disorder, and obsessive-compulsive disorder.[9] He wrote a series of columns on popular psychology for the local newspaper during his tenure at Linyi Mental Hospital, although his critics alleged the columns were paid advertisements for the hospital. On 29 September 1997, Yang received the honor of becoming a Top 10 Underage Protector in Shandong for his work treating Internet addiction disorder in teenagers.

Internet addiction treatmentEdit

According to Yang, he began to investigate Internet addiction in 1999 when his teenage son began to spend more and more time playing video games every day.[10] Yang established an "Internet-addiction camp" inside the Fourth Hospital in 2006 and began practicing ECT.[11] Yang was awarded the Top Ten Outstanding Citizens for Protecting the Minors of Shandong by the Shandong provincial government for the therapy in 2007.[12] In 2008, Yang became the director of the Internet Addiction Treatment Center.

Yang caused widespread controversy in China when its most viewed television channel, the state-run China Central Television (CCTV), aired a special about Yang's treatment center in July 2008. The program, titled Fighting the Internet Demon: Who Turned Our Geniuses into Beasts, reported positively on Yang's ECT therapy and sharply criticized the massively multiplayer online role-playing game (MMORPG) World of Warcraft, then popular in China and blamed for many teenagers' purported Internet addiction. The program initially caused an uproar in China's World of Warcraft community, a sentiment that later spread to most of China's Internet community. Yang's critics revealed some of his most controversial practices, which led to the mainstream media abandoning their praise of his treatment center. Nevertheless, Yang went on to win a State Council grant for excellence in medical science in February 2009.[2]

In May 2009, China Youth Daily, a leading state-run newspaper in China, published a highly negative investigative report on Yang's practices, which received coverage on both the CCTV and other prominent Chinese media, eventually leading to coverage in Science.[3] CCTV-12, in particular, aired a segment featuring a young adult who was drugged by his parents, brought to Yang's clinic and received an hour of ECT.[3] The controversy eventually led to the Chinese Ministry of Health issuing a ban on Yang's use of electroconvulsive therapy. In August, CCTV aired its own investigative report, further questioning the ethics of Yang's treatment center. The report alleged that Yang had received CNY 81 million (US$12.73 million) from his treatment center. As of publishing of the report, more than 3,000 adolescents had experienced the therapy.[13]

Treatment programEdit

In the controversial July 2008 CCTV coverage of Yang's treatment center, he claimed that patients with alleged Internet addiction suffered from "cognitive and personality disorders".[14] Yang promoted electroconvulsive therapy as a means to remedy such disorders.[15] According to an investigative report, Yang's patients ranged from 12[16] to 30 years of age. Most of them were abducted by their parents or the "Special Operations", an informal branch of the treatment center that consisted of parents and more senior patients, who were rewarded for their participation in abducting new patients.[17] The parents (even those of adult patients) would then sign a contract with the treatment center placing the patients into foster care by the treatment center.[18] After they were admitted, Yang's patients were allegedly placed into a prison-like environment, where they were forced to reveal all of their online accounts and passwords. Reports also show Yang managing his patients in a military manner, encouraging patients to act as his informants and threatening resisting patients with ECT, which former patients claimed he used solely as a means of torturing them.

In addition to electroconvulsive therapy, Yang used psychotropic drugs, including diazepam, paroxetine, and buspirone,[17] without the consent of patients or their parents, claiming that the drugs were "dietary supplements". The center also had mandatory sessions with psychiatric counselors, where patients were taught obedience to Yang, whom they were forced to call "Uncle Yang". Yang also warned patients against asking their parents to take them home, another offense punishable by ECT.

After his use of electroconvulsive therapy was banned, Yang continues to practice using another therapeutic method he invented, known as "low-frequency pulse therapy", which is alleged by former patients to be more painful than ECT therapy.[7]


Unethical treatment controversyEdit

Electroconvulsive therapy at Yang's treatment center was performed in "Room 13" (later renamed the "Behavioral Correction Therapy Room" after media scrutiny). Yang claimed that ECT therapy "is only painful for those with Internet addiction"[19] and that the therapeutic machines used "lowered electric current". Investigative reports questioned whether Yang's use of ECT without anesthesia or muscle relaxants on minors, whose informed consent was not obtained, was in violation of the WHO guidelines on electroconvulsive therapy. Reports further accuse Yang of using the therapy as a means of torture. Although ECT had been regulated in some areas in China, Shandong province did not have regulations regarding the therapy.

In response, Yang's supporters claimed that ECT was not the primary form of treatment and that psychiatric counseling was emphasized at the center. Yang stated that admitted patients were shocked only a few times during their treatment. Yang maintained that he was properly licensed in performing ECT, and that his treatment program was fully compliant with Chinese laws and regulations regarding clinical psychology.

Reports also state that Yang applied electric shock to patients' hands, a non-indicated usage that is said to produce more pain, as a punitive measure.

Safety of therapyEdit

In 2009, China Youth Daily publicized the news of a patient who escaped from Yang's treatment center. He jumped from a second-floor window at the treatment center. The report alleged that Yang's ECT therapy triggered cardiac arrhythmia in the escaped patient, questioning the safety of Yang's therapy.

Legality of therapyEdit

Some commentators called Yang's practice a violation of patients' basic human rights. Critics contend that Yang's abduction of his patients and use of electroconvulsive therapy may have violated Chinese laws on the protection of minors and may have constituted aggravated assault.[20] Critics maintain that Yang's failure to obtain informed consent may also be in violation of the International Covenant of Civil and Political Rights, which China has signed but not ratified.

The machine Yang used for ECT treatments is a DX-IIA ECT device, manufactured by a Shanghai pharmaceutical company from 1996 to 2000. The manufacturer warned of impaired cognition as a side effect. Chinese health regulation had stopped the device from being manufactured since 2000, and reports brought into question whether Yang acquired these devices illegally.

Clinical trial controversyEdit

In 2006, Yang claimed to have invented a formula of Chinese traditional medicine that is effective in treating Internet addiction. Yang applied for a patent for his formula, although the Chinese State Intellectual Property Office has not responded to his application. Yang's patent application claims that he had conducted a clinical trial with 300 patients at his treatment center, and that all 300 patients were "completely cured of their addiction by the medication".[21] The patients' informed consent was not sought, and minors as young as 14 years of age were involved in the clinical trial.

Diagnostic standardEdit

Critics have raised questions about Yang diagnostic standard, claiming that he would admit anyone brought to his treatment center. Yang's published "diagnostic test" is criticized as remarkably lax, as almost any choices on the test will be diagnosed as Internet addiction. In July 2009, celebrity Chinese scholar and anti-pseudoscience crusader Fang Zhouzi published an essay that criticized the notion of Internet addiction and questioned the ethics of electroconvulsive therapy without anesthesia.[4]

Government banEdit

In July 2009, the Chinese Ministry of Health issued an official ban on the use of electroconvulsive therapy in treating Internet addiction, citing a lack of evidence as to its effectiveness. However, Yang's treatment center continued to operate after the ban by providing "low-frequency-pulse electronic acupuncture"[22] instead of ECT; critics protested that Yang's new therapeutic methods were designed to torture patients and called for an end to Yang's practice altogether.

The controversy reheatsEdit

In August 2016, a blog article "Yang Yongxin, a devil still at large" was posted on WeChat and Sina Weibo, and later made its way into Tencent News.[23] By providing a description of Yang, his therapy, and the government ban, the article re-ignited controversies around Yang, leading to an interview of former patients by China Youth Daily.[24] Justice Online, a news site run by the Supreme People's Procuratorate, also reported on deaths and injuries caused by shocks in Yang-style treatments.[25] However, Linyi's local health commission considers Yang's method legitimate;[26] in addition, Yang claimed "governmental support" for his center.[22]

In October 2016, a proposed draft of Regulation on the Online Protection of Minors which refers to terms on controlling Internet addiction was released for public commenting. In response, Justice Online called for a clear definition of "Internet addiction" as well as respect for minors' rights.[27]

In October 2018, a video showing a patient crying after being treated at the Fourth Hospital of Linyi was posted on Sina Weibo. Public concern about Yang's treatment center's existence reheated. Linyi's local health commission later responded that the individual was "an eight-year-old autism patient" and noted that the Yang's treatment center has been closed since August 2016. The video was later deleted by the publisher under order of police; the publisher publicly apologized for "leading an bad influence to the Fourth Hospital of Linyi".[28][29] According to The Paper, a Chinese news report website, the hospital has removed words describing the center such as "网戒中心" (internet rehab center). The source also noted the hospital's introduction to Yang said he is good at "curing Internet Addiction and personality abnormality, preventing adolescence's dangerous behavior, fixing family problems", despite the controversies.[30]

Dead by DaylightEdit

In 2017, the survival horror video game Dead by Daylight added a new downloadable content pack called "Spark of Madness". It featured a new map (Lery's Memorial Institute) based on Yang's hospital, a new killer named Herman Carter a.k.a “The Doctor” who is a doctor with the power to shock survivors, manipulating them mentally, and a new survivor (Feng Min) who is a former e-sports player.[31][32][33] It is believed that this character is based on Yang as an earlier character selection poll chose him to be the next character.[34]


  • "Altered Structural Correlates of Impulsivity in Adolescents with Internet Gaming Disorder". Du X, Qi X, Yang Y, Du G, Gao P, Zhang Y, Qin W, Li X, Zhang Q.Front Hum Neurosci. 2016 Jan 28;10:4. doi: 10.3389/fnhum.2016.00004. eCollection 2016.
  • "Effects of outcome on the covariance between risk level and brain activity in adolescents with internet gaming disorder". Qi X, Yang Y, Dai S, Gao P, Du X, Zhang Y, Du G, Li X, Zhang Q.Neuroimage Clin. 2016 Nov 2;12:845-851. eCollection 2016.
  • "Diffusion tensor imaging of the structural integrity of white matter correlates with impulsivity in adolescents with internet gaming disorder". Du X, Liu L, Yang Y, Qi X, Gao P, Zhang Y, Zhu J, Du G, Dai S, Li X, Zhang Q.Brain Behav. 2017 Jun 21;7(8):e00753. doi: 10.1002/brb3.753. eCollection 2017 Aug.
  • "Decreased modulation by the risk level on the brain activation during decision making in adolescents with internet gaming disorder". Qi X, Du X, Yang Y, Du G, Gao P, Zhang Y, Qin W, Li X, Zhang Q.Front Behav Neurosci. 2015 Nov 3;9:296. doi: 10.3389/fnbeh.2015.00296. eCollection 2015.
  • "Higher integrity of the motor and visual pathways in long-term video game players". Zhang Y, Du G, Yang Y, Qin W, Li X, Zhang Q.Front Hum Neurosci. 2015 Mar 10;9:98. doi: 10.3389/fnhum.2015.00098. eCollection 2015.
  • "Brain Structures Associated with Internet Addiction Tendency in Adolescent Online Game Players". Pan N, Yang Y, Du X, Qi X, Du G, Zhang Y, Li X, Zhang Q.Front Psychiatry. 2018 Mar 6;9:67. doi: 10.3389/fpsyt.2018.00067. eCollection 2018.
  • "Compensatory increase of functional connectivity density in adolescents with internet gaming disorder". Du X, Yang Y, Gao P, Qi X, Du G, Zhang Y, Li X, Zhang Q.Brain Imaging Behav. 2017 Dec;11(6):1901-1909. doi: 10.1007/s11682-016-9655-x.

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ a b "真网瘾战争 陶宏开炮轰杨永信:不要再伤害孩子" [The real internet addiction war: Tao Hongkai urges Yang Yongxin to "not hurt the kids anymore"]. Sina Gaming (in Chinese). 27 October 2016. Retrieved 31 January 2019. 常见人称呼其"羊叫兽"、"羊叔"、"电击狂人杨永信"、"磁暴步兵杨永信"、"雷霆萨满杨永信"、"十万伏特杨永信"等等
  2. ^ a b 杨永信:走进网瘾者心灵深处 (in Chinese). Xinhua. 13 March 2009. Archived from the original on 20 April 2009. Retrieved 7 May 2009.
  3. ^ a b c Stone, R. (26 July 2009). "China Reins in Wilder Impulses in Treatment of 'Internet Addiction'". Science. 324 (5935): 1630–1631. Bibcode:2009Sci...324.1630S. doi:10.1126/science.324_1630. PMID 19556477.
  4. ^ a b Fang, Zhouzi (22 July 2009). "网瘾"是不是病? [Is "Internet addiction" a disease?] (in Simplified Chinese). China Youth Daily. Retrieved 13 February 2023.
  5. ^ Sheridan, Michael (7 June 2009). "China's parents try shock tactics to cure net 'addicts'". The Times. London. Retrieved 13 February 2023.
  6. ^ a b Moore, Malcolm (15 July 2009). "China bans electric shock therapy for internet addicts". The Daily Telegraph. London. Retrieved 31 January 2019.
  7. ^ a b 电击疗法被叫停 杨永信网戒中心推出"新武器" (in Chinese). Sina.com. 23 November 2009. Retrieved 31 January 2019.
  8. ^ 临沂“病人” 杨永信和他的“电击”网戒中心 (in Chinese). 新京报.
  9. ^ "杨永信:媒体捧出的网戒英雄 央视拍片推广" [Yang Yongxin: The hero promoted by the medias over internet abstinence, advertised by CCTV Filming]. Sohu News (in Simplified Chinese). Zhengzhou Evening News. 17 July 2009. Retrieved 13 February 2023. 杨永信,1962年出生于山东省临沂市河东区,1982年7月从沂水医学专科学校临床医疗专业毕业后,进入临沂市第四人民医院从事精神心理卫生工作。 [Yang Yongxin was born in 1962 in Hedong District, Linyi City, Shandong Province. After graduating from Yishui Medical College in July 1982, he joined Linyi Fourth People's Hospital to work in mental health.]
  10. ^ "Yang Yongxin, Saving Youngsters from Internet Addiction". China Radio International. 22 October 2008. Archived from the original on 14 September 2019. Retrieved 8 May 2009.
  11. ^ Stewart, Christopher S. (13 January 2010). "Obsessed With the Internet: A Tale From China". Wired. Retrieved 13 February 2023.
  12. ^ "网友庆祝杨永信电击疗法被停:危机始于反水学员" [Netizens celebrate the suspension of Yang Yongxin electroshock therapy: the crisis began with the whistle-blowing students]. Sina Tech (in Simplified Chinese). Southern Metropolis Daily. Retrieved 13 February 2023. 成名前后,他还因为对网瘾的治疗获得一系列的高档次荣誉:2007年,当选山东省"首届未成年人保护十大杰出公民"。2008年2月,荣获首届"感动山东健康卫士"称号并记二等功。2009年2月,成为享受国务院政府特殊津贴的专家。2009年5月5日,入选山东省道德模范候选人。 [Before and after his fame, he also received a series of high-grade honors for his treatment of Internet addiction: in 2007, he was elected as one of the "First Top Ten Outstanding Citizens for the Protection of Minors" in Shandong Province, and in February 2008, he was awarded the title of "Health Guardian of Shandong Province" and was given second-class merit. In February 2009, he became an expert enjoying the special allowance of the State Council Government, and on May 5, 2009, he was selected as a candidate for the moral model of Shandong Province.]
  13. ^ "China bans electro-shock therapy for Internet addicts". Reuters. 14 July 2009. Retrieved 13 February 2023.
  14. ^ 战网魔:谁把天才变成了魔兽. CCTV-12 (in Chinese). Tudou.com. 2 July 2008. Archived from the original on 17 March 2011. Retrieved 16 September 2010.
  15. ^ Yang Yongxin (11 March 2009). 战网魔:谁把天才变成了魔兽. 中国医药报 (in Chinese). Yang's personal website. Archived from the original on 4 September 2009. Retrieved 16 September 2010.
  16. ^ 刘明银《战网魔》第三章 网络公主的杏花春雨(1)
  17. ^ a b 暗访杨永信网瘾戒治中心:杨永信和传销一个样. 都市时报(City Times) (in Chinese). 搜狐网健康频道. 23 April 2009. Retrieved 31 January 2019.
  18. ^ "杨永信网瘾中心再追踪:女孩唱舞娘也遭电击". 南方人物周刊. Archived from the original on 15 October 2018. Retrieved 13 December 2011.
  19. ^ 一个网戒中心的生态系统 (in Chinese). China Youth Daily. 7 May 2009.
  20. ^ "杨永信:天使还是恶魔?". China Netizen. Archived from the original on 23 April 2012. Retrieved 13 December 2011.
  21. ^ "CN200610138322.8 一种治疗网瘾的药物". State Intellectual Property Office.
  22. ^ a b Zhongru, An. "杨永信称电击戒网瘾系治病救人 没关门因政府支持" [Yang Yongxin: ECT for network addiction cures and saves lives; Not closing due to government support] (in Chinese). The Beijing News. Retrieved 25 August 2016.
  23. ^ Silin, Lei. "一个恶魔还在逍遥法外:"网瘾"治疗专家杨永信" [Yang Yongxin, a devil still at large]. Tencent News (in Chinese). Retrieved 25 August 2016.
  24. ^ Tianming, Lan (24 August 2016). "接受过杨永信"电击疗法"的少年如今咋样了" (in Chinese). China Youth Daily. Retrieved 28 January 2019.
  25. ^ ""戒网瘾"致死致伤频发 专家:建立行业资质认定标准" ["internet addiction treatment" frequently kills or injures; experts call for a qualifying standard]. Archived from the original on 21 November 2016. Retrieved 21 November 2016.
  26. ^ "临沂卫计委:市精神卫生中心治网瘾方法符合国家规范" [Linyi Health and Family Planning Commission: Interner Detox Programs at Linyi Mental Hospital Comply with National Regulations] (in Chinese). Archived from the original on 21 November 2016. Retrieved 21 November 2016.
  27. ^ "国家明确矫治"网瘾" 专家:诊疗不可侵犯孩子合法权益". Justice Online (in Chinese). Archived from the original on 21 November 2016. Retrieved 21 November 2016.
  28. ^ "网传"临沂网戒中心传出哭喊声",当地警方调查结果出来了". xinhuanet.com (in Chinese). 26 October 2018. Archived from the original on 7 January 2019. Retrieved 7 January 2019.
  29. ^ ""网戒中心尖叫"视频拍摄者:出于同情拍视频,下次选择报警". The Paper (in Chinese). 27 October 2018. Retrieved 31 January 2019.
  30. ^ "探访临沂四院:网戒中心被除名,杨永信仍标注"擅长网戒"". The Paper (in Chinese). 28 October 2018. Retrieved 31 January 2019.
  31. ^ "Next DLC". Steam. Retrieved 24 April 2017.
  32. ^ "New Killer Ability Teaser | Dead By Daylight". Youtube. Archived from the original on 21 April 2017. Retrieved 24 April 2017.
  33. ^ "New Dead By Daylight DLC That Adds Killer Doctor Available Now". Gamespot. Retrieved 13 May 2017.
  34. ^ Esther. "《黎明杀机》答谢中囯玩家!中囯特别角色选角投票!" [Dead by Daylight thanks all Chinese players -- exclusive chacter selection poll!]. SteamCN (forum) (in Chinese). Retrieved 25 April 2017.

External linksEdit