Is There a Link Between ADHD and Video Game Addiction?

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The Virtual Babysitter

In a world filled with Playstations, XBox Systems, Wii Systems, iPods, iPads, laptops, and a full range of Nintendo handheld games, it’s no wonder that parents are concerned about the possibilities of video game addiciton for their children, especially children with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. Video games often provide an easy outlet where children are entertained and focused rather than bored or searching for something to do. Despite this, the possibility of health risks associated with video gaming addiction should be weighed heavily against the benefits of a quiet house.

ADHD Linked to Video Games

Most people who have ever played Tetris, Farmville or Mario Cart can understand the compelling feeling to play just one more game or just a little longer, but video gaming addiction is more than just a simple desire to keep on playing. Children who experience video gaming addiction often demonstrate a desire to play video games over all other extra-curricular activities and often exhibit symptoms that put them at odds with authority figures.

For children with ADHD, the ability to hyperfocus on a subject of interest can take over during the gaming experience and make the transition away from the games very traumatic. Because of this, children with ADHD typically resist any instructions to end their gaming time, including external time limits placed on game play or the necessity to transition to other activities such as going to school, doing homework or sitting down for dinner. They may become argumentative at these transitional times and continue to be irritable and aggressive long after the game has been shut off.

As ADHD is a genetic neurodevelopmental disorder, the link between ADHD and video game addiction is not such that gaming can cause ADHD. However, researchers are exploring the possibility of an increased potential for gaming addiction among children who have ADHD. According to a study lead by Dr. Douglas Gentile at Iowa State University and published in the May 2009 issue of Psychological Science, 8 percent of American children between ages 8 and 18 should be considered “pathological” gamers who are addicted to video games.

The study stated that pathological gamers spend up to 24 hours a week playing video games, twice as much as those who are not pathological gamers. They consistently receive poorer grades in school, are more likely to be boys than girls and are twice as likely to have been diagnosed with ADHD. Gentile concluded that video game addiction could be considered a potential comorbid disorder which could accompany ADHD. Through these findings, Gentile’s answer to the question “Is ADHD linked to video games” is a definite yes.

Not All Bad

Despite these findings, some video game usage may not be such a bad thing for children with ADHD. A study conducted in 2008 and commissioned by casual video game developer and publisher Pop Cap Games Incorporated concluded that casual video games can actually help reduce symptoms of ADHD by increasing the player’s attention span, reduce stress and improve memory for children with ADHD. Casual video games are those games which usually include one simple screen with a repeated activity such as the games Bejeweled or Bookworm.

In Conclusion

With ADHD linked to video games with both positive and negative outcomes, it is important that parents be very careful of the amount of time their ADHD children spend playing these games. Whether the risks outweigh the benefits or vice versa, nothing can beat the experience of playing outside on a sunny day, jumping in mud puddles, and interacting with other living, breathing children and adults. In moderation, video games can be a fun source of entertainment, an opportunity for success in a given area, a chance to work on hand-eye coordination and the possibility of connecting with other children who are interested in the same games, but as the saying goes “too much of a good thing” may have negative results for children with ADHD.


ADHD Linked to Video Game Addiction

Gentile, Douglas. “Pathological Video-Game Use Among Youth Ages 8 to 18: A National Study.” Psychological Science May 2009, p. 594-602.

Handelman, Dr. Kenny. “ADHD & Video Games: The Positive and the Addiction.”

McGlaun, Shane. “Casual Video Games are Therapeutic for Kids with ADHD.”

Silver M.D, Larry. “Is Your ADHD Child Addicted to Video Games?”

Vivo, Meghan. “New Facts about Video Game Addiction: Problem More Widespread than Expected.”