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Does Video Gaming Cause ADHD?

adhd and video games

If you are looking for a direct answer, it is a no. ADHD (Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder) is a childhood neurodevelopmental disorder in which abnormalities occur in some parts of the brain, such as the gray matter, the basal ganglia, and the cerebellum. So, video games cannot affect these already existing deformities.

However, there is a relationship between ADHD and video games since people with ADHD are more addicted to video gaming and those with more intense symptoms of ADHD have higher levels of addiction.

Statistics

Technology is on the rise, and children get exposed to video games even as toddlers. 91% of the children aged from 2 to 17 play video games. Nowadays, developers and manufacturers are creating games targeting young children and toddlers. Furthermore, more than 30% of children have used a tablet before age 2.

Data from 2016 to 2019 shows that 6 million children aged from 3 to 17 were diagnosed with ADHD. A study conducted in 2021 found children show addictive attitudes toward video games. The study also concluded a significant correlation between ADHD and video game addiction. Children with more severe ADHD symptoms had greater levels of addiction.

ADHD and Video Game Addiction

People with ADHD live on two extremes. Either they are extremely fidgety, show excessive movements, or cannot stay focused on one thing. Or they get hyper-focused in a state of hyperactivity and impulsiveness. Video games grasp your attention for smaller periods and do not allow you to divert your focus onto something else.

We discuss the many different aspects of ADHD and how video gaming may influence them.

Hyperfocus

When children with ADHD get into hyperfocus mode, they cannot think about anything else and divert all their attention to the thing at hand. Such children exhibit hyper-focused behavior when playing video games. They can be so hyper-focused that they don’t even hear someone if their name gets called out.

Studies conducted on 3000 children show that children who did more gaming showed high rates of impulsiveness and had smaller attention spans.

Stimulation

Video games are a source of instant gratification and satisfaction for children with ADHD. Video games offer rewards in the form of money, unlocking new levels and new costumes, etc. They allow children to fulfill a goal and move on to the next. It gives them a sense of accomplishment where they achieve something of their own accord and simultaneously escape reality.

Adhd Specialist

Socialization and Sense of Accomplishment

Children with ADHD struggle to socialize with others. They find it hard to communicate, wait for their turn, share, get bored and distracted and lose track of a conversation. As such, they find it hard to make long-lasting friendships. Video games allow children with ADHD to make online friends and long-lasting friendships.

Winning a video game also helps boost the confidence of such children, and without these games, the children start to feel aimless. However, winning a game gives them a sense of invincibility and that they cannot get overpowered, which makes the children enter into a never-ending cycle of playing games and winning.

Since ADHD makes people lose focus and impairs their ability to control movement when performing any motor task, children with ADHD may find difficulty playing physical games. Video games allow such people to compete but differently.

Feeling of Safety

It may be embarrassing to lose focus in a crowd of people and fail to throw the ball into the net. However, children do not feel scared that someone will judge them when playing a video game. If they make a mistake, it stays hidden from the outer world, between their computer and them.

Similarly, video games are not checked by teachers. If the child loses a game, it’s not a big deal, as they can retry multiple times and get their record right. In a way, several attempts also help them master the game without anyone judging or bullying them.

Self-Medication

Dopamine is a chemical substance that gives you pleasure. Children with ADHD have low levels of dopamine in their brains. For example, at higher altitudes, dopamine levels are naturally high, which is why the symptoms of ADHD are lesser. Gaming allows children with ADHD to feel pleasure despite low levels of dopamine. As a result, such children self-medicate and feel better.

What Should I Do If I Think My Child Is Addicted To Video Gaming?

Oftentimes, children’s video gaming allows peace and solace to parents. Parents having children with ADHD need even more peace as they seldom get it because of the hyperactive nature of their children. The kids get distracted and do not show actions of inattentiveness while being inactive physically. However, such parents must be careful that their children do not get a gaming disorder on top of ADHD. To do this, parents must take strict action and consult with specialists.

Set Rules and Regulations and Enforce Them

Parents should set certain limits to video gaming and also enforce them. Children with ADHD tend to hyperfocus, get too involved to notice the time fly by, and lack organizational skills. Parents need to analyze their children, their levels of ADHD, how addicted they are to gaming, the type of video games their children like to play, and the environment at their house.

Many online guides may help parents develop the best set of rules. Parents should set rules and explain to their children the importance of implementing and neglecting these rules.

They can make a reward system; for example, if they help you with chores, they will be gifted thirty minutes of game time. Parents can ensure full control by taking their devices and reminding their children of the time limit when handing them the device—also, setting a visible timer so children cannot complain later.

Look for Other Alternatives

Cutting down on time spent playing video games means that children have more time at hand, so parents need to find other alternatives to keep their children engaged. Physical activities such as outdoor sports help with ADHD symptoms and thinking capabilities.

Since ADHD symptoms of inattentiveness may prove as disadvantageous for group activities, parents should look for sporting activities that require individual focus. Such activities include sports like gymming, swimming, and golf. Other non-sporting but also non-competitive activities include drama and arts and crafts.

See Also: Debunking Myths About ADHD

Conclusion

Around 3 in 4 children in the United States receive treatment for ADHD. The Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) reports that people exposed to electronic devices are twice as likely to exhibit symptoms of ADHD as compared to those who play video games less often.

Remember that although video gaming does not cause ADHD, there is a relationship between ADHD and video games. If your child shows symptoms, get your kid checked as soon as possible.

Family Medicine Austin

Written by Jeannette

I am Jeannette, the medical writing specialist here at Family Medicine Austin. I have over five years of experience working with a range of medical and healthcare across the U.S.