Anxiety is a common symptom gaming addicts experience. When mental health professionals are treating gaming disorders, they often treat underlying anxiety, which this study found 92% of all cases of gaming disorder, the patients also presented with anxiety.
This leads to a question: do video games cause anxiety?
While there has been no scientific evidence showing video games cause anxiety directly, the two are most certainly correlated.
This means video games might not cause anxiety directly. However, many people turn to video games as a refuge from their stress and anxiety, which may worsen their anxiety.
In this article, we’ll look at the relationship between video games and anxiety and how the two work with each other.
Which Came First?
Often in the debate about video games and anxiety, the question becomes: Which came first, the gaming disorder or the anxiety?
Do you play video games to escape from the stress of anxiety, or are you so anxious because you play video games so much?
It’s a chicken and egg question that we need to solve for each case individually. For some people, gaming is one of the main reasons they experience anxiety, but for most people, we work with, video games become an escape from reality.
According to Adams et al. (2019), playing video games and other addictive behaviors are often a refuge from distressing thoughts and anxiety and offer a means of escaping having to deal with problems in your life that cause you anxiety. As a result, your problems seem to melt away.
However, the problem with that is that the underlying issues remain. You didn’t eradicate your anxiety and other issues, but you’ve numbed them temporarily.
In this case, video games can become a maladaptive coping strategy for your anxiety that makes your anxiety even worse over time.
The Correlation of Video Games and Anxiety
The correlation between video games and anxiety is much deeper than you might think.
Many people who suffer from anxiety are far more susceptible to becoming addicted gamers than others who don’t experience anxiety.
People who are genetically predisposed to anxiety and nervous behaviors often find games as a coping mechanism. Many people who have anxiety also have a personality type that is more prone to anxiety. This personality type usually has high levels of neuroticism, which is one of the five major personality traits.
People with higher levels of neuroticism are more prone to developing a gaming disorder. People who are more nervous and suffer from stress tend to gravitate towards video games more often. However, this doesn’t mean that anxious people are also more likely to play video games.
Gaming is a form of escape that might help you forget your problems, and it may help you reduce your anxiety, at least according to some studies.
However, the relief you would find from video games for your anxiety will be short-lived. The underlying reason you’re anxious will still be there, whether it’s a life situation, stressful events, high neuroticism trait, or other causes. Plus, it makes you more likely to develop gaming disorder, as well.
Do Video Games Cause Anxiety, Then?
The one lesson we can take away from all of that is: video games might not cause anxiety directly, but they may worsen it significantly if video games are used as a treatment for anxiety if played excessively.
Some of the main reasons why people suffer from anxiety include:
- Chronic stress
- Personality and personality trait
- Other mental health issues
- Alcohol (withdrawal from it)
Most commonly, many people suffer from anxiety because of their personality traits. Unfortunately, this is genetically predisposed, so this is an unpleasant life situation that they have to deal with for many people who suffer from anxiety.
For others, anxiety is caused by the buildup of life problems. For example, it may be difficult events, stressful situations, negative experiences in life, trauma, and often a combination of all that might lead to anxiety in the long term.
One of the most unfortunate things about gaming and anxiety is that video games offer an easy and comfortable exit from the difficult situation caused by anxiety. But, unfortunately, this creates other problems, such as a worsened case of anxiety and other mental health issues and problems with physical health.
As such, video games do not cause anxiety directly. Most people who have anxiety and play video games were present much earlier than the gaming problem developed.
Can Video Games Help with Anxiety?
Video games can alleviate anxiety symptoms and might help you recover in the short term if you play video games. It’s an effective way of escaping your problems, but only in a short period.
And that is where the problems come in.
Video games can be highly addictive, and because they can effectively alleviate anxiety in the short term, they end up becoming the primary problem instead.
Because video games are so addictive and easily accessible, you might start to turn towards them too much, which can cause video gaming addiction.
And as you might already know, gaming disorder can cause further damage to your mental and physical health. Video game addiction has a bunch of negative effects on your mental and physical wellbeing, including:
- Physical health atrophy
- Poor sleep
- Lack of motivation
- Social anxiety
- Poor emotional regulation
- Suicidal thoughts
To summarize, the current research body shows that video games, in moderation, can alleviate some of your anxiety symptoms. However, excessive gaming can cause all types of other mental health problems, and it may make your anxiety even worse, so it’s best to proceed with caution in using games as a treatment for your anxiety.
What To Do If I Have Anxiety?
The most effective way to reduce or try to combat your anxiety is to consider therapy. However, there are other ways that you can use, such as trying meditation or other hobbies that will keep you grounded and taking breaks while gaming.
Let’s break down each method to see which one is best for reducing your anxiety while also staying away from getting addicted to video games.
As we’ve already mentioned, considering therapy will be your best course of action in this case. However, if you decide to speak to a therapist, you will have a plan made specifically for your case. That’s very important since not every case is the same, and your causes for anxiety might be different from someone else’s.
We have a comprehensive list of therapists that operate all around the world, and you’ll be able to find one near you if you have anxiety and want to quit your gaming habit as well.
Keep Your Gaming in Check
Another important thing you need to do if you have anxiety and like to play video games to treat it is to keep your gaming in check.
It would help if you kept yourself from getting addicted to video games, which will cause you to have other issues that come with gaming addiction.
An important thing here is to keep breaks while gaming and ensure that you don’t play too much. Try to keep your gaming to 2 hours a day or less, and ideally not every day.
Try Hobbies and Meditation
One of the most important ways to manage or reduce your anxiety is to keep yourself grounded.
This means that you should stay more connected with the world around you. The more present you are in the current moment, the better you’ll be able to manage your thoughts and feelings.
Meditation can be incredibly helpful, especially mindfulness meditation. However, you can also try other relaxing hobbies instead of gaming as your go-to method of relieving your anxiety.
We Can Help
At Game Quitters, we have a program specifically tailored to help you get your gaming under control, including managing issues such as anxiety. It’s called Respawn. Inside, you’ll learn how to cope with your anxiety while also making sure you can recover from your gaming addiction and start living your life on your terms.
We also have other programs and resources, such as: