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Nancy Schimelpfening

Video Game Addiction Linked to Depression, Anxiety in Kids

By January 28, 2011

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Video game addiction among children and teens may contribute to the development of depression and anxiety, according to Iowa State researchers.

The study also found that children who are more likely to become addicted to video games are those who spend a lot of time playing them, have trouble fitting in with their peers and are more impulsive.

Once addicted, these children were more prone to depression, anxiety and shyness.  They also suffered a decline in their school performance.

"What we've known from other studies is that video gaming addiction looks similar to other addictions.  But what wasn't clear was what comes before what.  Gaming might be a secondary problem.  It might be that kids who are socially awkward, who aren't doing well in school, get depressed and then lose themselves into games.  We haven't really known if gaming is important by itself, or what puts kids at risk for becoming addicted," said Douglas A. Gentile, associate professor of psychology at Iowa State University in Ames.

Not only did this study reveal what the risk factors for video game addiction were - playing over 30 hours per week, social incompetence, lower than average empathy and impulsiveness- it also clarified the link between depression, anxiety and pathological gaming.  The researchers "found that in kids who started gaming pathologically, depression and anxiety got worse.  And, when they stopped gaming, the depression lifted.  It may be that these disorders coexist," said Gentile, "but games seem to make the problem worse."

Gentile notes that playing a lot of video games is not the same thing as addiction.  Some children may play a lot of games without it having any effect on their lives.  If  you see serious problems in your child's life like falling grades, however, he may have a problem.  It really depends whether his gaming is having any adverse effects on his day-to-day functioning.

Gentile makes the recommendation - which is in agreement with the American Academy of Pediatrics - that kids should be limited to no more than two hours a day of "screen time."  Screen time includes time watching TV, using a computer, playing video games or using phones or other devices that have computer-like capabilities.

The study will be published in the February issue of Pediatrics.

Comments
February 6, 2011 at 4:50 pm
(1) Clayton says:

I am ashamed to admit that I’m an addict and no longer a child. I’m not sure whether playing games contributed to the onset or severity of my depression/anxiety or if it was the depression/anxiety that led to me playing the games in the first place.
What I do know is that I use the games to try an escape from reality and I suppose that feeling is the same for other addicts who look to the bottle or use drugs; all are just trying to get away from something…unfortunately that thing is usually in our minds and there is no escape.

I don’t want to end on such a negative note, so I will add: Thank you for this interesting article Nancy. I hope that you and any others that read this have a nice day. Peace.

March 11, 2011 at 11:15 am
(2) Seminole CEU says:

Stated in the article “Playing Casual Video Games Reduces Depression Symptoms”, playing casually makes a very big difference compared to making a full-time job out of it.
The goal is to make casual non-violent video game time OK for leisure time, occasionally. But it is completely true that the byproducts of extended video game play can be socially
crippling. Great article!

October 12, 2011 at 1:07 pm
(3) CJ says:

As a college instructor, I have seen a correlation between excessive video game playing and poor attention span and lack of study skills. I don’t know if it leads to depression or anxiety, but I know if I spend too much time online, I tend to get lethargic and kind of go into a “screen trance.” It’s something I need to take breaks from and walk away from.

October 31, 2011 at 1:52 pm
(4) Robert B. says:

I gave up ALL video games and put my energy into walking and trying to find peace of mind. I can NEVER go back to where I was in “LIFE”… and do not take my successes lightly. Although I grasped your knowledge quickly I have continued to grow each hour of every day. The endless possibilities a NEW DAY brings…are excitement to one’s heart, mind, and soul…
God Bless…
Robert B.

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September 1, 2012 at 7:31 pm
(6) scott says:

i started playing video games at a very young age (4-5 years of age) however depression and anxity didn’t develop untill i was about 12-13 which is when i noticed a huge increase in gaming i personally believe (for me at least) that my addiction to video games was a by product of depression and gaming is a method for people to deal with depression, for example playing a game like wow guild wars ect ect gives someone who is depressed a chance to socialise with others with out actually leaving the house (something well known to happen with people who are depressed) aswell as this gaming gives a user a sence of achievement, people who are depressed and competitive also become absorbed and become almost perfectionists with gaming.

September 11, 2012 at 8:50 am
(7) Selby says:

Playing computer games had affect on me when i was 10-12 years old, i would do anything to play them when my mum or dad would take them away. I ended up spending hours playing, sleeping less and becoming more anti-social unless i had a friend come around to play too, i notice a more aggresive side to me. now im older i still play games (Xbox360) but never do i become annoyed, angry, upset or anti-social.
It could just be a growing up thing, i dont know.
interesting artical

October 6, 2012 at 3:27 pm
(8) J.R. says:

Alcohol makes depression worse too. It has to do with the fact that parents don’t seem to care about their kids’ depression until it affects their obedience because they’ve found themselves an addiction. A kid who plays a game more and more is like an alcoholic. They feel shame and regret, do it more, and it’s just one big cycle. This article seems to blame it on the games themselves, when it’s not.

October 6, 2012 at 3:33 pm
(9) J.R. says:

*when it’s not the game’s fault. It’s not so much about limiting game time as it is expanding life time. A lot of parents don’t really actively participate in their kids’ lives and it’s sad…it’s not like they have to be their best friend. Just allow them to do more socializing with different people.

December 12, 2012 at 5:54 pm
(10) MK Gilbert says:

I have a 27 yr old son who is disabled by severe anxiety/depression and is on the computer almost all the time when he isn’t sleeping~he takes several meds, and when I tried taking away his computer he reacted almost violently…he has shown signs of addiction to video games since childhood even tho I was very strict and we didn’t even have video games until he was about 12. He always found ways to get past our rules~he’s extremely bright~I think he may have Asperger’s, but since he’s “of age” (yet still totally dependent on us!) the Dr’s won’t even share his diagnosis with us which is so incredibly stupid! How are we supposed to help him if they won’t even let us be involved!?! We don’t want to have him declared incompetent as that would further increase his problems. He does have a person helping him do what he needs to do to become independent, but it’s such a slow process! He’s been out of college and without a job for 2 yrs now, and stuck in a rut~he didn’t quite finish his degree, which we’d like him to do, but he doesn’t feel ready yet~he totally bombed out a few times due to the severe depression, and I helped him too much in the past so now he resents me. We are friendly enough, but since he frightened me last spring I have realized I have to back off and let others try to help him. It’s just so very hard to deal with.

December 12, 2012 at 5:56 pm
(11) MK Gilbert says:

PS: I really wish we could reply to individual comments as I’d love to try to help others thru personal experience, and also get their support with my problems! That would be great if you could do that! Thanx.

February 7, 2013 at 12:37 am
(12) Alanna says:

There’s no such thing as an addiction to video games. Generally, people experience anxiety or depression based on their surroundings and how they were raised. In fact, some people just don’t like people. Besides, vidya is great and it’s a good way to relieve stress and have fun with friends.

July 7, 2013 at 11:15 pm
(13) someawkwardcreature says:

“It really depends whether his gaming is having any adverse effects on his day-to-day functioning.”
Are there drug addicts where it just ‘depends’ whether their smoking has adverse effects?
Or drinkers?
I doubt the gaming itself is causing the anxiety/depression since its not like the gaming judges you or stresses you out (unless their mad at the game for some reason)
I think they play games to escape reality because there’s no resolution in their reality and nothing that makes them at least feel like everythings ok. They feel that nothing becomes ok for them in their lives so they go to games for relief since there’s none in their life and since games can’t really make them feel worse about themselves or make them sad or anxious.
Perhaps the self aware thought that they use games to help them escape anxiety and depression makes them a bit sad, but I doubt the gaming itself causes it.. unfortunately I guess I could be put into the category of “addicted”, but I’ve stopped gaming for long lengths of time before and nothing really happens other than not getting my usual “break from the stress of everything”. I didn’t feel better at all, but I have realized something that does help is to be try to be aware of the anxious and depressive feelings when they do come up so that I can understand why I feel that way and try to control it better. So far that and praying has helped me a lot because I used to, and still do sometimes, think that it was just that I was a weird bad person who had these problems ingrained into me and they’d never go away unless I passed away, but somewhere along the way after cutting and thinking of suicide I think my prayers must have worked cause I started being aware of my feelings and understood them for the first time.. lol sorry this is way too long but I had to let this out somewhere and yeah that’s where I’m at so far in trying to understand why “I’m such a bad and weird person”.

August 27, 2013 at 8:40 am
(14) Christine says:

My husband before is a video game addict. I was worried before because he suffered insomnia but anyway, from the article, it actually depends on the kid or person’s experiences in life. Plain Video Game doesn’t really affect that much anxiety.

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