Playing Video Games And Depression: Does Gaming Make Things Worse?

Reviewed by Wendy Boring-Bray, DBH, LPC

Published 07/14/2022

Video games have become so popular in the last several decades that they have practically taken over pop culture. What once used to be considered a niche activity that appealed mostly to children and teenagers is now something that people of all ages enjoy. It might be more accurate to say that the general population has finally realized how cool and fun video games be. There have been people of all age groups enjoying classic video games for a long time, and this dates back to the days of dingy arcades and the Atari 2600. You know how popular video games are now, but you likely also know that some people still associate games with negative things.

For example, many people worry about video games and whether or not they cause depression. It’s definitely true that some people who get swept up in video games go through various forms of depression. Some gamers are also people who could be considered to have social anxiety. However, this isn’t necessarily true for the vast majority of people who play video games. That doesn’t mean that video games and depression aren’t linked at all, though. Read on to explore the connection between video games and depression so that you can learn what to do about it.

Video Game Addiction

What is video game addiction? This is something that happens when someone plays video games way too much and they aren’t able to pull themselves away from it. A person who is addicted to video games might play all day long, but this isn’t what defines a video game addict. A normal person could play games all day long just like someone could choose to spend their day off binging a Netflix show. What makes video game addiction different from just doing something a lot is that it has an impact on that person’s life.

When someone is addicted to a video game, they might start making poor life choices so that they can focus more on playing the game. For example, you might find that someone will start skipping work or school just so that they can play the video game. Some people will even forget to eat food and will stop bathing because all that matters to them is the video game that they are addicted to. People have become addicted to all sorts of video games, and the genre isn’t necessarily of importance. It’s the impact that this addiction can have on your life that should give you pause.

Some who get addicted to video games will wind up getting fired because of slipping performance. People have flunked out of school and caused relationships to fail due to video game addiction as well. If you don’t think that video game addiction is serious, then you’re simply wrong. However, that doesn’t mean that video game addiction is something that everyone experiences or that your depression is caused by video games. It’s also perfectly possible for someone to have depression issues that aren’t related to games in any way, although playing games too much could exacerbate depression issues.

Social Phobias and Gaming

People with social phobias might sometimes be drawn to video games because it’s an outlet for them. It’s an activity that feels safe and allows them to have fun without having to worry about being bullied or dealing with other social problems. There isn’t anything wrong with this, but it can be somewhat unhealthy for kids or adults to use gaming as a way to avoid socializing. The world is a social place, and finding success in the world will generally require a certain level of social skills. Playing video games too much can be bad for people who aren’t learning to create relationships with others.

Studies have also shown that playing video games too long can lead to increased issues with mental illnesses. One study noted that people with video game addiction are twice as likely to experience anxiety and depression issues. Depression, anxiety, and video game addiction are certainly all linked together. With more than two billion people playing video games in the world today, it’s going to be easy to see how this could become a problem. Mental health matters and people also need to be able to function in the real world.

It’s fine for you to want to play video games, and many people love them as a favorite pastime. You just have to be careful that you don’t start using video games as a social crutch or as a way to avoid your problems. The same could be said of just about any other type of activity, though. It just so happens that video games are very addictive and that not everyone is able to pull themselves away easily. It is important to realize the dangers of doing something like this too much and try to maintain regular gaming habits.

Regular Gaming Habits

What are regular gaming habits? Well, that depends on the person, but your video game playing shouldn’t get in the way of other stuff in your life. You should only play in your spare time, and it’s also best to ensure that your gaming never prevents you from living up to your responsibilities. Prioritize work, school, and personal relationships ahead of the games that you play. Have fun with video games, but just don’t make them the main focus of your life. Professional gamers might need to do this to an extent, but most people should think of video games as a fun entertainment medium that they’re passionate about.

Having other things that you love helps out as well. Gaming doesn’t necessarily have to be the only thing that you’re into. Even if games are your one true love as far as interests go, it’s just good to avoid playing too much. Avoid long play sessions that will make you feel like a zombie. Get outside every so often and spend time with your loved ones. Video games can be very great, but they aren’t the only things that deserve your attention in life.

Getting Treatment for Video Game Addiction

If your gaming habits aren’t as healthy as they should be, then it’s possible that you might have a video game addiction. In this situation, it’s going to be best for you to seek treatment that can help you to get away from video games. Video games aren’t inherently bad, but some people get addicted to them so much that they will not be able to focus on other things in life. If you’re missing work or school just to play games, then that’s a sign that you might be moving in the wrong direction.

Treatment for video game addiction is usually going to involve some type of therapy. A therapist can help by talking to you about what you’re going through. You can work through depression issues that you might be experiencing as well as any social phobias that you might have. It isn’t necessarily going to be easy to overcome significant problems, but you can do it when you have an expert by your side. Being able to admit that you have a problem is a great first step that can put you on the path of getting better.

Some people might also go to special rehab facilities for video game addicts as well. Places like this aren’t necessarily common, but they are starting to get more coverage because of how many people go through video game addiction issues. This is sort of like a standard rehab facility for people who are addicted to other things. The idea behind it is to give someone a safe space where they can focus on therapy and getting better. The people who stay in facilities like this will have no access to video games so that they won’t be able to fall back into old habits.

Treating Depression Issues

Before going any further, it’s going to be best for you to know that you’re actually dealing with depression. Some people aren’t sure whether they’re depressed or if they’re just feeling a little bit sad. Taking this depression test can actually make it a lot simpler to understand the difference between the two. You’ll be able to get a better idea of whether you’re going through depression problems or not. If you are depressed, then you will want to go to your doctor to talk about things and to figure out what can be done.

Your doctor will be able to properly diagnose you with depression so that you can move forward with a treatment plan. There are actually quite a few treatment options when it comes to dealing with depression. The recommendations that your doctor will give you will likely be related to the type of depression that you’re going through. Many people who are depressed will feel better once they start taking antidepressant medications. There are many types of medications that fall under this category, and your doctor will determine what one is best given your situation.

Another option is to go to therapy sessions to get to the bottom of your depression issues. You might need to do this anyway if you’re struggling with video game addiction. Therapists are experienced when it comes to helping people to get through depression issues. They can help you to understand the causes of your depression while also teaching you how to cope with depression symptoms much more effectively. If you’re struggling with depression right now, then you’re going to benefit significantly from talking to a therapist.

Just know that you aren’t alone when you’re feeling depressed. Video games might be making your depression worse if you’re relying on them too much, but you can turn things around. Relying on compassionate professionals might be the first step toward turning your life around for the better. Depression symptoms can feel overwhelming, and they can often keep you from feeling like you’re capable of realizing your life goals. When you’re able to get the right treatments, it’s going to be possible to alleviate those depressed feelings and start living life to the fullest again.