There are many misconceptions about video gaming and how it affects mental health. More often than not, politicians and public commentators will link video gaming to negative consequences, such as violence and aggression. However, research indicates that video gaming alone does not involve negative consequences. Rather, video gaming in moderation can actually be a healthy coping mechanism and has been linked to a number of positive outcomes (e.g., reduced stress and anxiety, improved emotion regulation, increased self-esteem). In contrast, an excessive amount of video gaming can reduce these positive outcomes and contribute to increased stress. Although the number of hours is not definitive, some researchers define “moderate” gaming as 14 to 21 hours per week and “excessive” gaming as more than 21 hours per week. In this article we aim to highlight the benefits of video gaming, signs that video gaming is becoming detrimental, and ways to maintain healthy video gaming habits.
Mental Health Benefits
Video gaming has been associated with a broad range of benefits, including:
- Improved emotion regulation
- Enhanced emotional intelligence
- Increased attention control
- Increased cognitive flexibility
- Increased well-being
- Decreased depression, anxiety, and stress
Video games that include social components are also particularly beneficial. They have been shown to increase prosocial behavior, such as cooperating and sharing. Given that people may not always have the opportunity to engage in in-person interactions, online social games also provide an opportunity for people to socialize, build relationships, and receive support from others.
Signs that Video Gaming is Detrimental
Excessive amounts of video gaming can reduce the benefits and contribute to negative consequences. Here are some signs that video gaming may be detrimental:
- Physical pain: carpel tunnel syndrome, “Gamer’s thumb” (i.e., inflammation in the thumb)
- Vision problems: eye strain, headaches
- Gaming preoccupation and loss of interest in other activities
- Downplaying use of video games
- Needing to spend time video gaming in order to feel good
- Not being able to cut down on video gaming even when you want to
Additionally, excessive gaming can negatively impact social relationships, educational achievement, and job performance.
Healthy Video Gaming Habits
In moderation, video gaming can be a fun, social, and beneficial activity. Here are suggestions that can help with maintaining healthy video gaming habits for children through adults:
- Set time limits for play: decide how long you will play, set a timer, and stop when the timer goes off
- Keep video gaming out of the bedroom to avoid disrupting sleep
- Try to stop video gaming an hour before bed
- Keep hydrated and take breaks to stretch or move around
- Engage in other activities throughout the day, including exercise or walking
- Make time to socialize in-person with family and friends
- Try to choose games that are positive experiences instead of negative ones
Like most things in life, moderation is key when it comes to video gaming. Moderate video gaming is associated with a variety of benefits, including improved emotion regulation and decreased stress. Moreover, video games with a social component can increase prosocial behaviors and provide more opportunity for social interactions. Excessive amounts of video gaming, however, can reduce these benefits and result in negative consequences (e.g., physical pain, negative impact on school and work performance). Therefore, it is important to maintain healthy video gaming habits, such as setting time limits and engaging in activities aside from video games throughout the day.
If you or someone you know is struggling to engage in healthy video gaming, providers at Upside Therapy are here to help. If you are interested in services, please call 972-519-1692 or email email@example.com.
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