All sorts of mental health problems can be attributed to video games. According to some studies, gaming can lead to people becoming angry, depressed, violent, and even aggressive. Each of these claims is true. But there’s more to the story. Is there a relationship between video gaming and mental health? Is video gaming good for your mental well-being?
Video gaming excessively is associated with positive emotions, social relationships, and good moods. Excessive and problematic video gaming can also be associated with poor academic performance, maladaptive coping strategies and negative emotions.
Video games aren’t evil by nature. They don’t necessarily cause depression or anxiety. Video game addiction can make these problems worse. Continue reading to find out the negative effects of video gaming addiction on the brain and how you can continue playing video games without harming your mental health.
This quiz will help you understand how video games are affecting your life.
How do video games affect emotions and mental health?
We need to ask another question in order to answer this question: Why do people play video games?
Many gamers began playing video games as a way to escape from real life. Perhaps they were bullied at school and then bullied when they got home. A video game is the only way to escape such situations. It is the only place they can escape the emotional pains of real life.
A fMRI study examined the brain activity in gamers. The amygdala, which is the brain part that controls fear and other negative emotions, is what you should be paying attention to. Study showed that the amygdala calms when it is active, i.e. when you feel fear or pain, and when you play a videogame. Video games allow us to suppress negative emotions and escape them.
Negative emotions are one the best teachers for the brain. A child who has ever touched a hot stove once will never touch it again. Video games can suppress negative emotions and make it difficult to learn from mistakes.
This video will show you how gaming can affect the learning circuitry in our brains.
People get trapped playing video games even though it is affecting their life and progress. They believe they are lazy because they don’t understand why they can’t quit and so they continue to play videogames.
Alexithymia is a condition where someone suppresses emotions for prolonged periods of time. Alexithymia refers to the inability of determining one’s inner emotions. Most gamers are alexithymic because video games suppress emotions and have negative effects on our mental health.
Alexithymia can be described as an adaptive and protective mechanism. People often lack an emotional guide to help them understand their emotions. People end up suppressing their emotions because it is easier than to feel the pain.
They lose the ability to recognize what emotions they are feeling over time. However, this does not mean they can no longer control their emotions; they just don’t know when it happens.
Men who display emotions like shame, fear, or sadness are thought to be weaker or less masculine in our society than men who don’t. Anger is the only acceptable emotion they can display. This severely restricts their emotional ability and makes them more vulnerable to developing alexithymia.
Negative emotions build up over time due to the constant suppression. The pressure they place on our minds eventually becomes too much to bear. These are the times when gamers experience emotional outbursts.
They resort to the only strategy they know: gaming to suppress their emotions. They end up playing video games all day. They neglect aspects of their lives such as school performance, hygiene, and physical health. This leads to more negative emotions they must suppress. They end up in a negative feedback loop.
Depression and Video Games
An increase in anxiety and depression is associated with playing video games. But, correlation does not always mean causation. People who are depressed or unhappy are attracted to video games because it helps to suppress their negative emotions. They become stuck in their lives because of their gaming addiction. They end up unhappy.
There is a distinction between clinical depression, and feeling unhappy. Clinical depression is a state where someone can feel happy but not be fully fulfilled. If you’re stuck in your life and don’t move towards your goals, you will be most likely unhappy. Sometimes you can have one or both. It is difficult to tell the difference. It is best to seek the advice of licensed mental health professionals if you feel depressed.
In this video, Dr. K explains what the difference is between clinical depression or unhappiness.
Video Games and Anxiety
The ability of our mind to predict future problems is a strength. Anxiety is when this ability becomes out of control.
Anxiety can be caused by an addiction to video games. This is because we don’t do the things we know we should. We aren’t worried about ignoring them or not doing them in the future. These things are what we are most concerned about. These consequences are in the future.
Each anxious thought has its roots in the future. Although video games don’t necessarily cause anxiety they can make your life more stressful and make you forget other important things. This creates anxious thoughts.
Watch our webinar to learn more about anxiety and how you can manage it.
Are Video Games a Cause of Low Self-Esteem
A person who is addicted to video gaming and has low self-worth will likely have low confidence and self-worth.
Online gamers don’t have to be judged on external factors. Others see gamers as they are and don’t judge them on their appearance, what they have, what they earn, what cars they drive, or how they dress.
They feel uncomfortable when they go out into the real world. They tend to avoid the outdoors and stay in. This makes matters worse as they miss out opportunities to learn and explore. Their low self-esteem and confidence continue to decline over time.
Gaming is not always the cause of mental problems. You can be healthy and still enjoy playing video games. People who don’t know how to manage their emotions tend to turn to video games to suppress them, and get stuck in life.
We can help you if your gaming habits are affecting your daily life. Register to join Dr. Alok Kanojia’s Healthy Gamer Coaching Team. Healthy Gamer Coaches can be gamers who have taken control over their lives and understand what you are going through.