Video game addiction appears to be associated with ADHD and other psychiatric disorders, according to a new study.1
“Excessively engaging in gaming may function as an escape mechanism for, or coping with, underlying psychiatric disorders in attempt to alleviate unpleasant feelings, and to calm restless bodies,” said lead author Cecilie Schou Andreassen, PsyD, at the University of Bergen in Norway.
Research into “addictive technological behaviors” has demonstrated strong associations between addictive use of technology and comorbid psychiatric disorders. Schou Andreassen and colleagues1 conducted an online cross-sectional survey of 23,533 adults (mean age, 36 years). They examined whether demographic variables and symptoms of ADHD, obsessive-compulsive disorder, anxiety, and depression could explain compulsive and excessive use of social media and video games.
The researchers found positive, significant correlations between symptoms of addictive technology use and mental disorder symptoms. Age appeared to be inversely related to the addictive use of these technologies. The study implies that younger people with some of these characteristics could be targeted to help prevent development of an unhealthy gaming pattern, said Schou Andreassen.
Being male was significantly associated with addictive use of video games, whereas being female was significantly associated with addictive use of social media. “Men seem generally more likely to become addicted to online gaming, gambling, and cyber-pornography, while women to social media, texting, and online shopping,” said Schou Andreassen. There was also a positive relationship of being single to both addictive social networking and video gaming.
The analyses showed that demographic factors explained between 11% and 12% of the variance in addictive technology use. Mental health variables explained between 7% and 15% of the variance.
“The study significantly adds to our understanding of mental health symptoms and their role in addictive use of modern technology, and suggests that the concept of Internet use disorder (‘Internet addiction’) as a unified construct is not warranted,” said Schou Andreassen.
The study used 7 criteria to identify video game addiction. Gaming experiences over the past 6 months were scored on a scale from “never” to “very often.” The statements included:
• You think about playing a game all day long
• You spend increasing amounts of time on games
• You play games to forget about real life
• Others have unsuccessfully tried to reduce your game use
• You feel bad when you are unable to play
• You have fights with others (family, friends) over your time spent on games
• You neglect other important activities (school, work, sports) to play games
Scoring high on at least 4 of the 7 items suggested an addiction to video gaming associated with impaired health, work, school and/or social relations.
1. Schou Andreassen C, Billieux J, Griffiths MD, et al. The relationship between addictive use of social media and video games and symptoms of psychiatric disorders: a large-scale cross-sectional study. Psychol Addict Behav. 2016;30:252-262.