Can I have ADHD if I can focus on video games?

ADHD may make it difficult for a person to maintain focus and attention on a task, like playing video games. Still, it’s possible for them to use video gaming to their advantage. How so? And how can they reduce the risk of developing addictive behaviors? Find out here.

Table of Contents

~ 1. Everything to Know About ADHD & Video Games

        ~ Dopamine Surge vs. Inattention Symptoms

        ~ The Possibility of Playing Video Games for Hours

        ~ The Positive Effects of Video Game Play for People with ADHD

        ~ Too Much Time Playing Video Games?

~ Can I have ADHD when I play video Game FAQ

Everything to Know About ADHD & Video Games

I often get asked about how we can manage to sustain our attention even when our ADHD symptoms kick in. For instance, many wonder if people with ADHD struggle with playing video games💻📱? How long can they play without getting distracted or bored? After all, attentiveness is necessary for this activity. Sometimes, questions like these may sound like a no-brainer. But, really, they make sense. So let's try to clarify this topic even more.

Many people with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder may have attention struggles because it is one of its main symptoms. Under the inattentive symptoms in the fifth version of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual, a person with ADHD may have problems sustaining attention for tasks and activities, like playing video games. If you tick this symptom off 📝and four more inattentive ADHD symptoms, you might be diagnosed with ADHD by your mental health professional.

because ADHD means "Attention Deficit (Hyperactivity) Disorder"

Going back, how can a person with ADHD do online video games or any other activity if they cannot concentrate well? Is it still possible for those diagnosed with this neurodivergent condition to play video games and enjoy them🤔? Asked differently: if you can spend plenty of time playing video games, does that mean you don’t really have ADHD? 

Dopamine Surge vs. Inattention Symptoms

Sometimes, our inattention to details and inability to maintain focus can be affected by our interests. Come to think of it, there are moments when we have difficulty sustaining our energy and eagerness on some activities because we aren't interested in doing them. Like, in school, we might daydream because the lesson is “boring🥱.” Another example is when we find something else to get busy with because a person is talking about uninteresting topics for a long time already. We tend to escape these instances because we aren't that much into them and prefer to do another, more interesting activity. One example of that activity? Playing video games on our phone📱.

Do you know what we get when we do something that interests us? Dopamine, one of the feel-good hormones. Research shows that ADHD is associated with low dopamine levels. The thing is, when we do something that’s pleasurable, our dopamine levels increase. This surge feels good, so we’re bound to do pleasurable activities more. Hence, one can say that it is the “reward system” that helps us focus on the task. When we are interested in something, like playing video games, our attention directs toward them partly because of the dopamine surge we experience.

The brain of people with ADHD is always looking for dopamine (which comes with fun and pleasure)

Dopamine is likewise a brain chemical responsible for our focus, energy, and drive. So, the more normal our dopamine levels are, the better we might be able to focus and stay motivated. 

The Possibility of Playing Video Games for Hours

Video gaming can be one of the activities that a person with ADHD enjoys if it suits them well. We can dedicate intense focus on video games if we have the interest and drive to do so. Not only can it be an excellent outlet for our energy, but can also be an activity to change our moods or emotions and give us the dopamine surge we need💪.

that's why we can focus (sometimes for hours) on things that we enjoy, like video games

Even though other people might be hesitant to accept that we can still focus despite our ADHD struggles, the possibility of playing video games for hours is still there. When we are in the zone to play these video games, we can hyperfocus. 

Hyperfocus is an ADHD trait where we can focus intensely on something we are interested in. Depending on how and where we use this trait, it can either be an advantage or weakness. 

It can be an advantage because we can accomplish a lot of things in a short time👌. However, hyperfocus can sometimes be a problem, too. When we are engrossed and focused on something that is not important, it can cause us to be unproductive😅. 

But before discussing the negative side of video game addiction, let's know more about the benefits of playing video games to people with ADHD.

The Positive Effects of Video Game Play for People with ADHD

What makes video gaming appealing is how we can practice our visual imagination and creativity. Think Minecraft or Sims, where we have the opportunity to design our environment. Educational games can also be helpful for children and young adults with ADHD to help them sustain focus and make learning more fun and attractive🙌. The good news is, many platforms for gaming target young children, like iPad apps designed to improve cognitive skills and help with problem-solving.

Some people may consider video game treatment a form of therapy because it can help people cope with their mental health issues. Many parents also allow their kids to play video games for a limited time because they understand that it can positively affect their children🧒. Likewise, when parents play video games together with their children, it can be a form of bonding. Video gaming can also help improve the coordination between the mind and body. Role Playing Games (RPGs) or group strategy games can likewise serve as a form of social interaction for some people.

Some people with ADHD who struggle with social anxiety or social awkwardness, can turn to video games to help them overcome their difficulties. Plenty of video game consoles offer online games that can connect you with people worldwide. These games can help some people with ADHD improve their social skills by providing opportunities to practice them in a low-pressure environment. You can play these games with people who don't know you, so you don't have to worry about making the wrong impression😉. 

Another good thing about playing video games is that it can be played by anyone, at any age. There may be an increasing number of younger children permitted for video gaming. But more and more games are also being made for an older audience. Video game use doesn't discriminate, which can be suitable for many people with ADHD who often feel like they don't fit in.

Still, anything not done in moderation can harm us, and that includes video gaming.  When we get into the zone, we can get so immersed that we forgo other essential things in our lives. The problem of having video game addiction symptoms can start to occur.

Too Much Time Playing Video Games?

During intensive video gaming, which can last for several hours, we can feel relieved, excited and pumped up💪. When we develop excessive gaming habits that make us counterproductive, more complications might arise. For this reason, it should be essential for us to balance our time playing video games with our time for other activities. That balance can help us cope with ADHD.

According to the World Health Organization, video game addiction is a real mental health disorder. They refer to it as “gaming disorder.” 

Gaming Disorder is an official inclusion to the 11th revision of the International Classification of Diseases (ICD-11). The World Health Organization lists Gaming Disorder as a “disorder due to addictive behavior”. However, the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) does not currently recognize Internet Gaming Disorder as a mental disorder. Reports say it is “ a condition warranting more clinical research and experience before it might be considered for inclusion in the main book as a formal disorder”

Despite the lack of recognition, it is still worth mentioning that too much screen time can be detrimental to our mental and physical health😨. Just like anything else, moderation is essential when playing video games. Sometimes, people with ADHD cannot recognize that video games present benefits and risks. We must take note of the amount of time we spend playing video games and be mindful of how it affects our daily routine, mood, and thoughts.

Here are some of the tips to avoid addictive video gaming behaviors and further complicating problems with Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder:

  • Develop healthy video gaming habits. Excessive video gaming can lead to unhealthy habits and different mental health problems. Set a video gaming schedule and stick to it📅. This will help you avoid video game addiction and focus on other important things in your life. However;
  • ADHD symptoms, such as impulsivity and hyperactivity, can make it difficult to stick to a schedule. Try setting the alarm or using a timer ⌛ to help you stick to your video gaming schedule. You can also try recording or monitoring gaming hours to track and compare video game playtime.
  • Understanding your ADHD diagnosis can help you avoid excessive gaming behaviors. Learning about your ADHD symptoms 👩‍⚕️ can help you develop healthy coping mechanisms and avoid unhealthy habits.
  • If you are supervising children with ADHD, set parental video gaming habits. Children with ADHD might be more likely to develop unhealthy video gaming behaviors than non-ADHD children. Parents can set an excellent example by monitoring their screen time and sticking to a video gaming schedule.
  • Becoming too immersed in video games might trigger aggressive and antisocial behaviors. This might be made even worse in people with ADHD who may have difficulties regulating emotions and be socially awkward. Balancing screen time with other activities 🎹🛹🧘 can help reduce the risk of developing these problems. Develop other activities parallel with video gaming to avoid becoming too invested.
  • Like alcohol and cigarettes🚬, video games can also cause addiction. So sometimes, having a variety of activities can help with regulation. Join a community control group to monitor habits when it comes to video games and be accountable to others. This will help you reflect on your behaviors and see if there are improvements or not.

Everything done in moderation has its benefits. But once you go beyond what is prescribed, the negative effects might start to occur and pile up. While enjoying video games may seem unlikely for people with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, it is actually possible. In fact, with healthy habits, it can even be beneficial😘. 

But when we lose track of time or get too engrossed in the game, problems start to arise. It is essential to be aware of how much time we spend playing video games and be mindful of how it affects our daily routine, mood, and thoughts. Excessive gaming can lead to unhealthy habits. Remember: further mental health issues can be prevented by developing a healthy gaming routine and understanding your ADHD diagnosis👩‍⚕️.

We all have the privilege to play games and have fun. But, as with anything else, moderation is key. Video games can be a great way to relieve stress, but they should not consume our lives. We should always try to balance screen time with other activities and make sure that we are staying mindful of how video gaming is impacting our daily lives. As long as everything is good and kept in moderation, video gaming can be beneficial for some people with ADHD. So go out there, have fun, and game on💪!

Can I have ADHD if I can focus on video games: FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions).

 

1.  Can people with ADHD play and enjoy video games like any other hobby?


While one might think that it’s unlikely for someone with ADHD to enjoy video gaming (considering their tendency for inattention and getting easily distracted), it’s actually possible for them to make a hobby out of playing video games.


2. Are there benefits to video gaming?


Yes, there are. Depending on the type of game and gaming habits, playing video games can serve as an outlet for emotions. It can also help improve creativity and social skills. Of course, educational video games can help make learning more fun.

3. Can video gaming cause an addiction?


Experts say, it can. In fact, The WHO already announced that Gaming Disorder is a real condition. However, the 5th Edition of DSM is yet to include Internet Gaming Disorder in its form list of mental health conditions.

Table of Contents

~ 1. Everything to Know About ADHD & Video Games

        ~ Dopamine Surge vs. Inattention Symptoms

        ~ The Possibility of Playing Video Games for Hours

        ~ The Positive Effects of Video Game Play for People with ADHD

        ~ Too Much Time Playing Video Games?

~ Can I have ADHD when I play video Game FAQ

Disclaimer: This article is for educational purposes only. If you are experiencing symptoms of ADHD, it’s best to see a professional for a diagnosis.

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I created The Mini ADHD Coach in august 2020 when I was just diagnosed with ADHD at 29. After years of questioning, therapy, burnouts and chaotic career path changes I finally understood why I was struggling with so many things. So I decided to share what I learned to raise awareness around ADHD and help the ADHD community thrive.

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