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Video games and ADHD

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The use of video games in young people and adults with ADHD can be a controversial topic. It’s a hobby that some people associate with intensifying ADHD symptoms, and some even think it may cause the condition. In contrast, there are studies that speak of the benefits of video games for young people and adults with ADHD.

It is a topic of interest for adolescents and adults, parents and children. Let’s review some important facts about video games and ADHD.

Can video games trigger ADHD?

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Let’s start at the beginning, to date, there is no scientific evidence that points to video games as the cause of ADHD. On the contrary, having ADHD is a risk factor for developing problems such as video game addiction.

People with ADHD have trouble planning, prioritizing, managing time, and being hyper-focused. All these characteristics make them more likely to fall into a harmful pattern of gaming, neglecting their responsibilities, and isolating themselves from their environment.

Additionally, the impulsiveness, need for immediate gratification, and social validation that characterizes this condition causes people with ADHD to spend more time playing video games, especially online ones.

Video games and ADHD symptoms

Let us remember that having some symptoms compatible with a diagnosis is not the same as having the diagnosis itself. It is not the same to be excited, hyperactive, irritable, or inattentive after spending time playing as having a chronic condition that affects different aspects of the person’s life.

Some video games can make ADHD symptoms worse. These are video games with high levels of tension that overstimulate the player, for example, those where the character looks for targets to shoot, are exposed to dangerous situations, or runs through the city streets at high speeds. Although these may be a lot of fun for some, in the case of individuals with ADHD these games may worsen the symptoms.

How to identify that video games have become a problem

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It is important to learn to identify signs that warn us when video games have become a problem. According to the International Classification of Diseases, in its 11th revision, video game use disorder is characterized by the following:

  1. Impaired control over gaming, for example, the ability to decide when to start and terminate the game
  2.  Increased priority is given to the game
  3.  Continuation of the game even though it has negative consequences

To be considered a disorder, the aforementioned must interfere with the person’s normal functioning in different areas of their life. Although this diagnostic manual mentions that the behavior must be present for at least 12 months to make the diagnosis, it clarifies that in those cases where the mentioned signs are present, and the symptoms are serious, this period of time can be shortened.

Video games for treating ADHD

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In recent years, several video games for adults and children with ADHD have been developed as an adjunctive treatment. This proposal has even been validated by the FDA. They allow you to work on the development of skills and improve your attention span.

These video games have been designed to improve the person’s cognitive functioning because they are implemented with a set time frame and themes that are entertaining enough to capture the player’s attention without overstimulating them. Some examples are:

  • EndeavorRX
  • BadPiggies
  • Roblox

Video games as therapy for ADHD should always be used as an adjunct to pharmacological and psychotherapeutic interventions and never as a stand-alone therapy. It is a strategy supervised by a specialist who sets objectives and monitors achievements.

In summary, not all video games are beneficial for individuals with ADHD, and not all are harmful. It is also not about avoiding video games in general, but about learning how to take advantage of this hobby.

Edited by: Maddison Henley, PA-C

Animo Sano Psychiatry is open for patients in North Carolina. If you’d like to schedule an appointment, please contact us.

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