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Video Games: Good or Bad for Mental Health?

There is a good side and a bad side to everything. Let us cover some of the bad effects that come with video games — Dopamine is a hormone that plays an important role in humans’ motor controls, experience of pleasure, motivation, and more. Video games can lead to an addiction of dopamine; when a player feels the need to play more games to get that same pleasure, they are more than likely addicted to dopamine. In 2019, The World Health Organization officially adopted “gaming disorder” to their list of addictive behaviors. The addictive behavior is diagnosed as a disease if the behavior pattern begins to affect personal, family, social, or other important areas of functioning for at least 12 months. Additionally, video games are correlated with increased depression and anxiety. Game addiction can drive gamers to neglect some aspects of their lives, like their academic performances and relationships. This can lead to a reduced quality of life, an overall feeling of unhappiness, and increased anxiety.

Video games can also have good effects on people. They make it easy to connect with friends and form friendships online that can last a lifetime. Gamers can turn to video games to spend time with friends during hard times, like during a global pandemic. The World Health Organization recommends people play video games, only about a year after classifying “gaming disorder” as an addictive behavior, to help stop the spread of COVID-19. Studies show that video games can help people who suffer from social anxiety learn how to initiate relationships and learn about social cues. Games like Tetris can ease some symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder. More research is needed, but a study found that car crash survivors who played the game shortly after their crashed had more than 50% fewer flashbacks. Video games can also train the brain to think analytically. Several studies found that gamers demonstrate above-average ability to focus on multiple stimulus at the same time; video games help develop problem-solving skills under pressure, which could help gamers thrive in a fast-paced work environment.

Although video games are correlated with increasing depression and anxiety, there is no evidence that they are the root of clinical depression or anxiety. Mental health professionals do not have all the answers when it comes to how video games effect the human brain but often misdiagnose gamers with depression. It is true that gaming can lead to unhappiness which can make depression worse, but that does not necessarily mean that gaming alone is the direct cause for depression. In fact, studies show that video games have actually helped reduce anxiety and depression for some people.

It is important to see the effect gaming has in the modern world as it becomes more and more popular. Not only are teenagers playing games, people of all ages, gender, and lifestyles are, too. A lot of research has been done, but there is still a lot that we don’t know when it comes to how video games affect mental health. When gaming becomes addictive, it can create anxious thoughts and worsen depressive symptoms but finding a healthy balance between gaming and everyday life can help improve mental health and relationships.

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