Can video games cause anxiety

Impact of Action Video Gaming Behavior on Attention, Anxiety, and Sleep Among University Students

Psychol Res Behav Manag. 2022; 15: 151–160.

Published online 2022 Jan 14. doi: 10.2147/PRBM.S347694

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Recently, there has been an increase in the prevalence of action video gaming among adolescents and young adults. This has made video gaming a topic of interest for behavioral and higher brain cognitive function researchers. The present study investigated the impact and consequences of action video gaming on human behavior—specifically, attention, anxiety levels, and sleep patterns.


The study aimed to investigate the potential associations between action video gaming and attention, anxiety, and sleep.


Recruited participants (N = 97) were asked to independently complete an online questionnaire consisting of 4 sections: demographic data, gaming behavior, 8-item Epworth Sleepiness Scale, and 7-item Generalized Anxiety Disorders Scale. Participants were further divided into 2 groups (expert and non-expert video gamers) based on the number of hours they spent on action video games. After completing the questionnaires, the patients attended an on-site session, where they completed a validated psychological online battery test that assessed their sustained attention.


The mean age of the participants was 21 years. There was a significant difference in attention between expert and non-expert video gamers; when exposed to stimuli, expert gamers displayed significantly shorter reaction times than the non-expert gamers (p < 0.05). Both groups showed a non-significant decrease in attention span throughout time. The data demonstrated no statistically significant difference in anxiety levels or daytime sleepiness between expert and non-expert video gamers, and minimal to mild anxiety levels were reported in most expert and non-expert gamers.


Expert video gamers were significantly more attentive compared to non-expert gamers, and most participants showed low levels of generalized anxiety. Accordingly, expanding our knowledge on the effects of action video games on attention span is important for creatively using games in the field of education, especially for those who suffer from attention deficit hyperactivity disorders.

Keywords: games, attention, anxiety, sleep, reaction time

Remarkable recent evolutions in technology have made video gaming one of the most popular entertainment practices. Studies have shown a significant increase in the prevalence of gaming among children and adolescents in recent years.1 This has led to many emerging studies on the effects of video gaming, especially for educators, social workers, and researchers. This increasing attention toward video gaming is also due to the variable possible impacts on individual well-being associated with gaming behavior. There are many studies that aimed to determine the prevalence and the correlation of gaming behavior on multiple psychological aspects, particularly on attention. 1,2 These studies resulted with a prevalence of video gaming addiction ranging from 0.7% to 15.6%.1 Some studies showed that playing action video games could be associated with improvement of some cognitive functions.3,4 Other studies detected poor academic performance in individuals with addictive gaming behaviors as well as declines in other cognitive functions compared to individuals with less extensive gaming behavior.2,4

In addition to attention, anxiety is a major mental health problem of concern as being commonly associated with video/internet gaming. Many studies have investigated this correlation using various methods. One study showed that people with Internet gaming disorder (IGD) demonstrated abnormal emotional regulation, expressed as anxiety and other psychological symptoms.5 Some studies detected an association between anxiety and online gaming and IGD.6 Furthermore, this association may not only exist in individuals with IGD; there is a possible correlation between anxiety and video gaming even in average gamers, as anxiety itself is a major concerning symptom that could interprets a person’s well-being. 7,8

In addition, poor sleep quality is one of the most common issue being possible associated with video gaming. Poor sleep quality is known to be associated with various other mental health problems and can contribute to both attention changes and anxiety related to video or internet gaming.9,10 Video gaming can also indirectly induce negative physical or psychological effects due to sleep deprivation.10,11 Further research is necessary to investigate the association between gaming behavior and sleep. This study aimed to explore the possible associations between action gaming behavior and attention, anxiety, and sleep. It also aimed to explore the relationships between the number of hours spent on video gaming (expert versus non-expert) and attentiveness, anxiety, and sleep disturbances.

Ethics Statement

The study was approved by the Institutional Review Board at Imam Abdulrahman Bin Faisal University (IRB-UGS-2020-01-358). Informed consent was obtained from each participant, and confidentiality of the data was assured and complies with the Declaration of Helsinki.

Study Design

A cross-sectional study was conducted from January 2021 to March 2021 at Imam Abdulrahman Bin Faisal University, Khobar, Saudi Arabia.


A total of 97 right-handed healthy participants (34 females and 63 males; age range: 18–26 years; mean age: 21.3 ± 1.78 years) were recruited. All participants completed an electronic questionnaire that was designed and divided into 3 sections. The first section collected demographic data, gaming behavior (gamer/non-gamer and the number of hours spent gaming per week), and contact information (with the full explanatory note containing the ethical requirements and consent form). The next section measured sleep deprivation using the 8-item Epworth Sleepiness Scale.16 The final section aimed to evaluate the presence of anxiety symptoms using the 7-item Generalized Anxiety Disorders Scale (GAD-7). 14 Participants who met the following inclusion criteria were recruited further for an on-site psychological battery test: Healthy adults with no history of neurological, psychiatric, or sleep disorders who reported playing action video games for at least 1 hour per week for the prior 6 months Based on the survey responses, all participants who did not fulfill the criteria were excluded from the study. The rest were classified into “expert” and “non-expert” categories according to the number of hours they had spent playing action video games over the previous 6 months. Expert gamers (n=55) were defined as those who played more than 7 hours per week. Non-expert gamers (n=42) were defined as those who played a maximum of 6 hours per week.12

Stimulus and Reaction Time Procedure

The following task, validated in 2013,13 was used to assess sustained alertness and attention by measuring repeated reactions to recurrent stimuli.


The task comprised letters in the alphabet, shown at a fixed point in the center of the screen, in white on a black background. When the visual stimulus (the letter X) appeared in the center of the circle, participants had to respond by pressing the space bar as quickly as possible. They were not to respond when any other stimulus—K, O, A, R, etc.—appeared.13


Each participant was seated in front of a laptop in a quiet room and given clear instructions. Prior to beginning the experiment, all participants were familiarized with the task and practiced a minimum of 5 trials to assure that they understood the task.

Both groups of gamers were asked to have adequate sleep based on their norms, not to smoke, and not to ingest caffeine one night before the task. After informed consent was obtained, verbal and written on-screen instructions were given. Then, each trial began with the 1500-ms presentation of a blank circle (no stimulus appeared), indicating that the subjects were to relax. When a stimulus was ready to appear, a cross appeared within the circle for 2000 ms, indicating that a stimulus was going to be presented, followed by presentation of the actual stimulus. Stimuli appeared in a random manner with an inter-stimulus interval (ISI) varying between 2 and 8 seconds, as shown in . A total of 37 stimuli were presented. The mean reaction time and number of correct responses were recorded. After completing the task with 37 trials, the participants received a report of their performance, including their reaction time, error, and trial accuracy, in the form of a single Excel sheet.13

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A sample of the screen as seen by participants.


To examine the impact of video gaming on anxiety, each healthy participant completed a self-reported online questionnaire. This questionnaire, based on a validated English form of the GAD-7,14 was intended to assess and measure general anxiety symptoms rather than to diagnose generalized anxiety disorder GAD.3 Participants rated the presence of their anxiety symptoms over the prior 2 weeks according to a 4-point Likert scale—“not at all” (0), “several days” (1), “more than half the days” (2), or “nearly every day” (3). Items were summed to reveal a symptom severity score ranging from 0 to 21. Participants’ anxiety was considered minimal if their GAD score was 0–4, mild if 5–9, moderate if 10–14, and severe if 15–21.15


A validated English version of the Epworth Sleepiness Scale16 was used to explore the effects of action video gaming on daytime sleepiness. This scale consists of the following 7 scenarios: “sitting and reading,” “watching TV,” “sitting inactive in a public place,” “as a passenger in a car for an hour without a break,” “lying down to rest in the afternoon when circumstances permit,” “sitting and talking to someone,” “sitting quietly after lunch without alcohol,” and “in a car, while stopped for a few minutes in traffic.” For each scenario, sleepiness level was ranked from 0 (“no chance of dozing off”) to 3 (“high chance of dozing off”). Participants were identified as experiencing normal daytime sleepiness if their score was 0–10 and as having excessive daytime sleepiness if their score was 11–24. 17

Data Analysis

Data were transferred to a single Excel sheet, and all variables were analyzed using the Statistical Package for the Social Sciences (SPSS) version 26.0. All incorrect responses and non-responses from the attention psychological battery test were deleted. Categorical data were presented as frequencies and percentages. Means with standard deviations (SDs) were calculated for numerical data. Correlations between action video gaming and anxiety and sleep were analyzed using the chi-square test. To illustrate the impact of action video games on sustained attention, we compared the means of the 2 groups using an independent t-test. Participants’ 37 trials were divided into 5 trial bins, with 7–8 trials per bin. The mean reaction time for every trial was calculated for all participants. To compare the differences in reaction time span for each trial bin, a one-way analysis of variance (ANOVA) was conducted. A p-value of ≤0.05 was considered statistically significant.


The total number of study participants was 97 (55 [56.7%] expert gamers and 42 [43%] non-expert gamers). Males (n=63) accounted for 64.9% of the participants. The mean participant age was 21.01 ± 1.776 years.

Gaming and Attention

shows the difference in mean reaction time between expert and non-expert gamers. Expert gamers exhibited significantly shorter reaction times compared to non-expert gamers (p=0.013), confirming the hypothesis that expert gamers are more attentive than non-experts.

Table 1

Reaction Time Comparison Between Expert and Non-Expert Gamers

GamersnMean Reaction Time (ms)SDp-value
Expert gamers55358. 2451.900.013
Non-expert gamers42391.2075.48

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Abbreviations: n, number; ms, millisecond; SD, standard deviation.

Further analysis was carried out to assess each subject’s attention span across all trials. Thirty-seven trials were divided into 5 bins with an average of 7 trials in each. Although no significant differences (p=0.929) were found across all bins according to an ANOVA test, there was an overall trend of reaction times increasing across all bins, as illustrated in and .

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Line chart demonstrating attention span decline in overall gamers.

Table 2

Attention Span in All Types of Gamers

Reaction TimeTotalGroupp-value
Expert GamersNon-Expert Gamers
1st 8 trials375. 895.9376.096.7375.696.00.983
2nd 7 trials376.672.0384.074.2367.068.70.253
3rd 8 trials362.954.6354.646.8373.862.40.086
4th 7 trials374.582.8362. 074.0390.991.30.088
5th 7 trials375.964.2375.067.6377.160.30.873

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Gaming and GAD

The prevalence of generalized anxiety symptoms as measured by the validated English version of the GAD-7 and the association with action video games among participants are depicted in , and . The vast majority of expert (87.2%) and non-expert (81%) gamers reported minimal to mild symptoms of anxiety, while 12.7% of expert gamers and 19.1% of non-expert gamers reported moderate to severe symptoms of anxiety. There was no statistically significant difference regarding the effects of video gaming on anxiety levels between the 2 groups (p=0. 388).

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GAD score for expert gamers.

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GAD score for non-expert gamers.

Table 3

GAD Levels for Expert and Non-Expert Gamers

Gamersn (%)Total (%)p-value
Expert gamers32 (58.2%)16 (29.1%)5 (9.1%)2 (3.6%)55 (56.7%)
Non-expert gamers17 (40.5%)17 (40. 5%)6 (14.3%)2 (4.8%)42 (43.3%)0.388

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Gaming and Sleep

The prevalence of daytime sleepiness among the participants is summarized in . While most expert gamers (85.5%) and non-expert gamers (78.5%) experienced normal daytime sleepiness, 14.5% of experts and 21.5% of non-experts experienced excessive daytime sleepiness. There was no significant association between action video games and severity of daytime sleepiness between expert and non-expert video gamers (p=0.377).

Table 4

Sleepiness Level Comparison Between Expert and Non-Expert Gamers

GamersScore (%)Total (%)Fisher’s Exact Testp-value
Normal Daytime SleepinessExcessive Daytime Sleepiness
Expert gamers47 (85. 5%)8 (14.5%)55 (56.7%)0.4260.377
Non-expert gamers33 (78.5%)9 (21.5%)42 (43.3%)0.268

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The present study investigated the possible interrelation between action video games on attention, anxiety, and sleep. Attention is defined as the ability to focus on a specific goal or information while successfully avoiding derailment due to distractions. In that regard, video games channel the facilitation of selective information processing in individuals. Efficient attention is essential in everyday life and is also considered an integral part of action video games.18 The current study examined the effects of action video gaming among expert and non-expert gamers on 2 domains of attention. First, players’ processing speed of reaction time was measured. Secondly, the reaction time trials were divided into 5 bins to extract the effect of action video games on sustained attention. To ensure elimination of the test’s novelty effect, the test trials were complemented with the pre-practice test. Reaction time was found to be superior in the group of expert gamers (358.25 ms) compared to the non-expert gamers (391.2 ms) (p=0.013). This finding is in concordance with a review of studies that tested reaction times between action video game players and non-players and found that the former group had 10% faster responses compared to the latter group. The study tested the speed of gamers’ responses using built-in data analysis software and found them to be very fast—to the level that the software documented most of their reactions being anticipatory, reaching response times of 200 ms or less.19 Cross-sectional and interventional study designs have investigated net reaction times and reported decreases over time. 19–21 This net decrease in reaction time corresponding to action video games has also had its effect beyond the games themselves, extending to daily activities.22 One study reported that action video games helped dyslexic children increase their reading pace.23 Another study found that these games were associated with faster operational skills in surgeons performing laparoscopic surgeries.24

In the present study, reaction time was measured using 37 trials. We divided the trials into 5 bins, with an average of 7 trials each, to extract another observation related to attention—attention span. We found no significant difference between the study groups regarding attention span, but we observed a trend of decline in both groups (p=0.93). The effect of action video games on sustaining attention has been extensively studied compared to other aspects of attention. A 2017 study found that expert gamers were better able to maintain attention at the beginning of the task; however, similarly to our study, their performance steadily declined near the end of the task. 4 The observed similarity of reaction time and the trend of decline in performance throughout the test in both expert and non-expert gamers groups might be explained by the nature of monotony and lack of exciting stimuli during the test. This makes both groups equal regarding attention span, with no superiority of gaming expertise in the improvements of this domain.

The second purpose of our contemporary study was to determine whether action video games were associated with elevated anxiety levels among healthy adolescents. We found no significant association between playing action video games and developing anxiety in expert or non-expert gamers (p=0.39). Overall, 87.3% of expert and 81% of non-expert gamers reported having minimal to mild anxiety symptoms, reflecting no direct relationship between anxiety and gaming regimens. These results are consistent with those of a previous review that observed the relationship between addictive use of social media and video games and psychiatric disorders; the results suggested that playing video games had no impact on anxiety (even for addicted video gamers) in terms of improvement or worsening, and more gamers were found to be depressed than anxious. 25 A separate randomized controlled trial examined the effect of video games on adolescent anxiety symptoms; it showed a steeper decrease in personalized anxiety scores than in total anxiety scores. Two plausible explanations for the absence of impact were the duration of the intervention and the type of video game used.26 The first conflicting results were from a randomized controlled trial created by a multidisciplinary team of psychologists, clinicians, game designers, and children themselves; participants showed improvement in anxiety levels after maintaining the evidence-based therapeutic video games for 6 months.27 Another study indicated that female gamers experienced higher anxiety in comparison to males, but the reason behind that was unclear.28 Additional studies reported variability based on the type of video games, anxiety scales used, age, and gender. One 2019 study revealed that anxiety was a risk factor for gaming addiction symptoms, and players who had higher anxiety levels tended to have higher addiction scores. 29 Finally, one study found a direct relationship between video game addiction and psychological factors such as depression, stress, and anxiety,30 and one additional study supported this finding.31

The effect of technology usage on human sleep is an ever-growing area of study. The third objective of the present study was to examine the effect of video games on sleep. Results showed that 85.5% of expert and 78.5% of non-expert video gamers reported normal daytime sleepiness, while the rest reported excessive daytime sleepiness. These results contradict the established results from existing literature stating that video games have a negative impact on sleep.32 The discrepancy between our results and those in the literature may be explained by several limitations and methodological means observed in literature. Although the effects of video games on sleep appears to be extensively studied, previous studies investigating this relationship are actually very limited. This may be the result of confusing the term “video gaming” with media use (television, personal computer, or Internet) rather than regarding these things as separate entities with different effects.33–35 Another limitation was the wide variety of methodological instruments and protocols used in each study, making it difficult to generalize and harmonize conclusions between them.32 Furthermore, many factors are linked to disturbances in sleeping patterns—specifically, the previous day’s activities and increased arousal states.36 This highlights the importance of separating the effect of video gaming on sleep from those of concurrent factors in daily life.

There are some limitations within this study that should be considered. The study was conducted among a small group of participants with some similar characteristics, such as age. This fact may limit the generalizability of the results. We suggest applying the study to a larger population with comparable demographics.

This study showed that expert video gamers were significantly more attentive compared to non-expert video gamers. Additionally, attention span decreased gradually toward the end of the trials in both groups of gamers, indicating that attention is not sustained with time. Although most of the participants showed mild levels of anxiety, there was no association between the severity of gaming and either anxiety level or daytime sleepiness. This study assessed the effects of gaming on attention and concluded that attention can be altered by certain types of games. That is, certain types of games can be used as tools to alter higher cognitive brain functions, such as attention, especially in those members of society who suffer from attention disorders that affect their day-to-day performances. This study also calls for the development of targeted video games that benefit members of society with disabilities in cognitive function. Further studies examining different types of video games and their effects on higher cognitive functions are recommended. Regarding the effects of gaming on cognitive functions, the test we used to assess attention focused on reaction time and did not take more than 10 minutes for 1 participant to finish. In further research, more complex tests that measure other parameters of cognition might be used to give more detailed information about different cognitive domains affected by gaming behavior, rather than just attention. Although online questionnaires are commonly used in other studies in this field and are reported to be an effective method, the nature of online surveys has some limitations regarding the self-reporting of symptoms; mainly, this method not as accurate as an interview with a clinician.

We thank the students, Rajaei Ali and Saad Almutairi, from Imam Abdulrahman Bin Faisal University for helping to connect us to the participant students in the study.

The authors declare that no outside funding was used for this research.

All datasets used and/or analyzed during the current study are available from the corresponding author on reasonable request.

The protocol for this research was approved by the Ethics and Research Committee of the Imam Abdulrahman Bin Faisal University (IRB number: IRB-UGS-2020-01-358).

Written informed consent was obtained from the participants for obtaining their participation results to be published in this article.

All listed authors: LB, NA, MA, FA, AA, KA, TA, and MS made a significant contribution to the work reported, whether that is in the conception, study design, execution, acquisition of data, analysis and interpretation, or in all these areas; took part in drafting, revising or critically reviewing the article; gave final approval of the version to be published; have agreed on the journal to which the article has been submitted; and agree to be accountable for all aspects of the work.

The authors declare that they have no conflicts of interest for this work.

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Do Video Games Cause Anxiety?

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
  • Trauma
  • Personality and personality trait
  • Other mental health issues
  • Drugs
  • Alcohol (withdrawal from it)
  • Illness

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:

  • Dehydration
  • Physical health atrophy
  • Exhaustion
  • Poor sleep
  • Obesity
  • Aggression
  • Lack of motivation
  • Social anxiety
  • Depression
  • 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:

  • Reclaim program for families of addicted gamers
  • INTENTA gaming disorder training for professionals

Can video games make us violent

Can computer games encourage players to be violent and addictive? Aggression is present in any competition - polls and focus groups show that in shooters people are more concerned about the aesthetic (“blood, guts”) side of the issue. Gambling addiction is not connected with the digital world - remember at least avid gamblers. Some even believe that the impact of games can be positive. About how games change their players and society as a whole - in an excerpt from the book by the famous developer Jesse Schell.


Game Design: How to create a game that everyone will play
Jesse Shell
Alpina Publisher. 2019

Can games be good for you?

Games are so close to human nature, and they can bring us so much pleasure, that only a person with a very extreme philosophy can say that games are harmful. More often than not, games are credited with positive effects.

Emotion control

Play is one of the many activities people use to control their mood and maintain their emotional state. People play games to...

Let off steam. Games, especially sports that involve a lot of physical activity (football, basketball), or video games that involve fast-paced action and combat can be a great way to cool off in a safe way.

Have fun. When a person is sad, fun games with funny situations (Cranuim, Mario Party) help him get distracted from problems and remember what it's like to have fun. nine0011

Clarify everything. It happens that we exaggerate our own problems and some minor troubles seem to us the end of the world. By playing games, we distance ourselves from our daily problems and, returning to them, adequately assess their scale.

Gain confidence. After a few failures in real life, you can feel good for nothing, come to the conclusion that you are not even able to control your own life. Playing a game in which our actions and decisions lead to successful outcomes gives us a sense of power that helps us remember that we can achieve a lot and are able to control our own destiny. nine0011

Relax. Sometimes we just can't forget our worries, either because of their magnitude or because of their number. Games force our brain to focus on something not related to our worries, allowing us to get away from them for a while and providing the necessary emotional release.

But it is undeniable that this way of escaping from reality can have the opposite effect - if, for example, the game disappoints you in the same way as real life. Although more often than not, games do a very good job with the tasks described above, helping us to control our emotional state. nine0011


It is not always easy to keep in touch with other people. We are all mired in our own worries and problems. These problems are either not interesting to other people, or they do not understand them.

Games can serve as a "social bridge" that encourages us to interact with each other:

they allow us to see how other people react to different situations, bring up topics for conversation, show what we have in common, and create common memories. These factors make games the perfect tool to start and then maintain relationships with the people that matter to us. nine0011


Games, especially sports, stimulate us to perform healthy physical exercises. Recent studies have shown that mental exercise also improves health, especially in the elderly. The nature of games, with the constant search for solutions to problems, makes them a flexible tool for conducting various types of physical and mental training.


I have always wanted to make learning fun and relaxing for children. nine0011

John Locke, 1692

Some people think that education is a serious thing and that games are pampering that has no place in the education system. But if you study the education system, you can see that it is a game itself! Students (players) receive a list of tasks (goals) that need to be completed (achieved) by a certain date (time limits). They get grades (points) based on the quality of their performance, and the assignments (difficulty) become more difficult over time until they complete the course, where they have to pass the last exam (main boss) that they can pass (win) only if they have received all the necessary skills during the course (game). Students (players) who have received the highest marks get on the honor board (top players). […] nine0011

Giving the brain what it wants

Learning is hard because learning is boring. Games, by their nature, masterfully hold the attention of the human brain, and all because they give him exactly what he needs.

Visible progress. As we discussed in Chapter 14 of The Puzzle, visible progress is a powerful motivator. Therefore, it is natural that in a good educational process there should be an element of noticeable progress. Games that are built around leveling up and completing quests are a great example of visible progress. nine0011

Turning the abstract into the concrete. The human brain finds it easier to deal with concrete concepts than with abstract ones. Therefore, a good teacher always uses real-life examples, trying to better explain abstract concepts. As control systems by definition, games do a great job of turning abstractions into concrete actions. That is why war games and simulations are an important part of the educational process in military schools. The abstract principles of military strategies are very difficult to understand without concrete examples of the application of these strategies on the battlefield. nine0011

Total immersion. When the brain has nothing to do with itself, it begins to “itch”, and we experience a feeling of anxiety. This happens when one part of our brain is busy (for example, listening to a lecture), while the other part responsible for music, socialization or kinesthetics is free. Therefore, students often talk at lectures with their neighbors or tap their fingers on the desk to the rhythm of some melody - the free part of the brain is looking for something to do with itself. Games provide total immersion using the eyes, ears, hands and brain. When every part of the brain works in a mode of activity that is comfortable for it, there is no distracting anxiety, which means that learning is much easier. nine0011

Many small targets. The brain likes goals that are clear and interesting, and a good game is nothing more than a sequence of specific goals that can be achieved and rewarded.


One of the areas in which the use of video games seems most natural is the presentation and memorization of facts. Learning the facts (capitals, timetables, names of infectious diseases, etc. ) is a monotonous and repetitive process. This information can be integrated into game systems that provide rewards for progress. Thus, the player studies information that does not arouse his interest with great pleasure. Video games in particular can use visuals with meaningful context to help players learn and remember these facts. nine0011

Problem solving

Playing is a great way to get productive.

Albert Einstein

Remember the definition of a game? The process of solving problems that takes place in the form of a game. Games train our ability to solve problems. And in cases where students need to demonstrate their ability to use an integrated approach to apply various skills and techniques, games can show up in all their glory. It is quite possible that soon in areas that require the use of various techniques in life situations, students will take final exams through game simulators. This applies to areas such as rescue work, police, geology, architecture, management, etc.

Off topic, today we have an entire generation that grew up playing complex video games that require extraordinary planning skills, strategic thinking and patience from the player who wants to succeed in them. Some speculate that this could give the world a generation of people with improved problem-solving skills when compared to previous generations. Time will tell how right they are. […]

Can games be evil for you?

Some people are afraid of everything new. And not without reason: many new things are dangerous. The concept of a game is, of course, not new to us, since games appeared together with the first people. But traditional games also have their dangers: playing sports, for example, can lead to injury, gambling can destroy financial well-being, and excessive passion for any of the games can unsettle your life. nine0011

However, these dangers are not new. They are well studied, and society knows how to deal with them. People (and especially those who have become parents) are more concerned about the potential dangers of new types of games that have become part of popular culture. Parents are always worried when their child is overly involved in something that was not in their own childhood. This unpleasant feeling is due to the fact that you do not know how to behave in the situation that has arisen and how to protect your child from danger. Parents are most concerned about two aspects - cruelty and addiction. nine0011


As already mentioned, games and their plots often have a theme of violence due to the fact that they imply conflict. And there is perhaps no simpler and more dramatic way to resolve a conflict than cruelty. But no one cares about the abstract cruelty that takes place in chess, Go or Pas Man. Chess does not provoke the capture of real bishops and kings. The brutality on display is disturbing. I once witnessed a focus group trying to figure out where the line of "excessive cruelty" lies for the average mom. nine0011

With Virtua Fighter, according to moms, there were no problems, but Mortal Kombat definitely raised doubts. What's the difference, you ask. In blood. It was not the actions themselves that were of concern,

present in the game (in both games you just need to beat your opponent), but the “graphic” bloodshed in Mortal Kombat, which was completely absent in Virtua Fighter. Moms believed that without bloodshed, it was just a game, fiction and nothing more. And the blood added to the realism of the game, which the mothers participating in the interview called "perverse and dangerous." nine0011

But there were some games that were disturbing even without the visualization of blood. In the 1974 game Death Race, based on the movie Death Race 2000, the player received bonuses for hitting small animated pedestrians with his car. When outraged parents started protesting against the game's appearance in local gambling halls, the publisher tried to convince them that the little pedestrians who needed to be run over were not people, but "goblins." But no one believed him, because the danger of violating the rules of the road was quite real. nine0011

During the very first tests of Pirates of the Caribbean: Battle for the Buccaneer Gold for DisneyQuest, we were very nervous: not even a week after the Columbine School shooting, and we are showing a game where you need to pull the trigger and shoot a cannon, destroying everything is in its path. We invited families with children to test, and their reaction was to determine the future of the game.

To our surprise, no one began to draw parallels between the two events - everyone liked the game very much. There was not a word about excessive cruelty, even despite the leading questions we asked during the interview. Pirate guns firing at cartoonish enemies were so far removed from the real world that they didn't cause the slightest disturbance. nine0011

What are these differences and inconsistencies related to? Simple fear: By playing games with realistic and violent content, people can become insensitive to real violence, or worse, come to the conclusion that real violence is fun and enjoyable.

How justified is this concern? It's hard to say for sure. We know that it is possible to become insensitive to the sight of blood and wounds: for doctors and nurses, this is the norm, allowing them to clearly do their job and make informed decisions during operations. Soldiers and police officers also cross this line, maintaining clarity of thought in situations where they must commit a violent act - to injure or even kill another person. But this is not the kind of insensitivity that worries parents: if, after video games, children go to study as doctors and policemen, this will not be a cause for concern. No, they are worried because

The nature of violence in the game has a clear resemblance to the behavior of a bloodthirsty maniac - it is killing for pleasure.

Do violent games really lead to psychopathic numbness, or is something else going on? Graphic brutality is just an aesthetic decision of the game. And as we found out earlier, during a long game, the user begins to see through the aesthetics of the game, plunging into the pure world of game mechanics, where he needs to solve a set of specific tasks. Even if the avatar commits mass killings, the player at this moment is not thinking about hatred and killing, but about improving their skills, solving puzzles and completing goals. Millions of people play violent video games, but stories of someone committing a violent act under the influence of such a game are extremely rare. We can say that the average person sees the difference between the real and the fictional world well. nine0011

Except for people who have a natural tendency to be violent, most of us are able to separate one from the other: a game is just a game.

But anxiety is not about adults, it is about children and adolescents, whose worldviews have not yet been formed. Are they able to share concepts? We know that with some types of games they succeed. Gerard Jones, in his book Killing Monsters, writes that a small amount of violence in the game is not only natural, but also necessary for healthy psychological development. But, of course, there is a limit to everything. Some concepts are still too early for children to know, and therefore age limits for video games are a necessity to allow parents to be smart about what their child can play. nine0011

And yet, do violent games change us for the worse? Psychology is too ambiguous a science to be able to clearly answer such a question, especially when it comes to something as new as video games. So far, they don't seem to have damaged our collective psyche, but game designers need to be on guard. The constant development of technology opens up new possibilities for increasingly sophisticated types of violent games, and perhaps someday we will realize that we have quietly crossed an invisible boundary and created a gameplay that really changes people for the worse. Personally, this seems unlikely to me, but to say that it is impossible would be too presumptuous and irresponsible. nine0011


The second biggest fear associated with the dangers of games is addiction. When a person plays so much that it has a negative impact on more important things in his life, such as school, work, health or personal life. Such anxiety may not only be due to too much time spent in the game. Too much of anything (exercise, broccoli, vitamin C, oxygen) can be fatal. This fear is associated with compulsive behavior that a person is not able to overcome, even when its negative consequences become apparent. nine0011

And indeed, designers have always tried to create games that capture and hold the player's mind - games that make you come back to them again and again. When someone is impressed with a new game, they often leave positive feedback: “I love it! She's so addictive!" But this does not mean that the game destroys his life, but only demonstrates an obvious craving for this game.

But there are people who spend so much time playing games that their real life really suffers from it. Modern MMOs, with their huge worlds, social commitments, and goals that take years to complete, can really drive some people to the point of self-destruction. nine0011

It is worth noting that self-destruction through play is nothing new. Gambling has been a part of human life for centuries,

but this is a special case, as this addiction is caused by exogenous (outside the system) and not endogenous (inside the system) reward. But even without a cash reward, there were cases where people played more than they should have. Most often this applies to college students. My grandparents told me a story about a classmate of theirs who dropped out of school because he played too much bridge. Stephen King's novel "Hearts in Atlantis" is a story (based on a true story) about college students who drop out of college because of their addiction to the card game "Hearts" and end up fighting in Vietnam. At 19The 70s Dungeons and Dragons craze led to a drop in grades, and today many students can't resist the temptation to play games like World of Warcraft. […]

No one argues that for some people a virtual hobby can become a real problem. The question is what game designers can do with it. There is an opinion that if designers stop making their games so attractive, the problem will be solved by itself. But

To insist that game designers who create "too interesting" games are to blame for everything is the same as blaming irresponsible bakers for people overeating because of their "too tasty" pies.

Yet it is up to the game designers who are responsible for the experiences they create to create game structures that do not disturb the natural balance of human life. This must be remembered, and one should not think that this is someone else's problem, and not ours. We need to keep that in mind the way designer Shigeru Miyamoto does, who often leaves autographs for children that read, "When it's sunny outside, go play outside." nine0011

Gaming experience

Do games really change people? We have already said that we are not creating a game, but a gaming experience. And gaming experience is the only thing that can change people, and sometimes in the most unexpected ways. When we were working on Toontown Online, we made a chat in which players could quickly exchange messages by choosing ready-made phrases from the menu. We felt that polite interaction between players was an important part of the Toontown aesthetic, and we felt that this could encourage them to play cooperatively. Most of the phrases were supposed to cheer and support the players (“Thank you!”, “Great job!”, etc.). This was in stark contrast to the generally accepted MMO culture of profanity and constant insults to other players. During beta testing, we received a letter from a player who was unhappy with us. He explained that he usually plays Dark Ages of Camelot, but has recently started playing Toontown Online as well. Gradually, he began to spend more and more time playing Toontown Online and less time playing Dark Ages of Camelot. The reason we upset him was that Toontown changed his habits - he noticed that he stopped using obscene language and began to thank everyone who helped him. He was embarrassed (even though he thanked us reluctantly) that a simple childish game had so easily changed the paradigm of his thinking. nine0011

You might think it's not that hard to change someone's communication style, but coming back to the question of violence, think for a second what violence is. Not violence in books or games, but real violence.

In the real world, violence is rarely a means to an end. Rather, it is a form of communication,

the one that people prefer to use when all else has failed. It's a desperate way to say, "I'm going to show you how you hurt me!" […] nine0011

In the "Open Reading" section, we publish excerpts from books in the form in which they are provided by the publishers. Minor abbreviations are indicated by ellipsis in square brackets. The opinion of the author may not coincide with the opinion of the editors.

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video games help treat anxiety and depression

June 18, 2021 17:46

pexels. com

Video games such as Team Fortress 2 and Mario Kart are an inexpensive and effective way to help alleviate a range of mental health problems. This conclusion was made by the specialists of the Research Center of the Science Foundation of Ireland Lero

A new study has disproved the conventional wisdom that video games harm social activity, lead to withdrawal, aggression, anxiety and feelings of loneliness. Fears in this regard only intensified with the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, when many people who found themselves in self-isolation were forced to reduce contact with the outside world.

According to the forecast of the World Health Organization (WHO), it is depression that will become the leader among diseases over the next ten years. Already today, more than 350 million people suffer from this disease on the planet. nine0011

Video games can help you cope with mental disorders.

Learn more