The Impact of Gaming on Mental Health


Most of us have an idea that video games have an impact on mental health. That said, we might not all be so sure as to just what that impact is. Those who’ve played video games would probably agree they generally feel good during and after playing, and that they can enjoy socialization while playing certain games. We can assume this part of gaming has a positive impact on mental health. Still, what parts of gaming are bad for mental health?

First, it might help to understand why so many turn to video games. Take someone who has been bullied both in school and online, for instance. Given the situation, one of the only escapes for them would be videogames, it allows them to escape the emotional pains of reality.

In a game, a gamer may feel accomplished when completing in-game tasks and goals and may develop socially when playing with others. However, gamers are also thought to be negative emotionally, becoming accustomed to using video games as a strategy to avoid life issues. In the rest of this article, I aim to clarify that video games don’t necessarily cause anxiety or depression, but that addiction can make these problems worse.

Video games enable us to suppress our negative emotions, as proven in a fMRI study. The amygdala is the part of the brain that governs the experiences of pain or fear. While participants would play video games in the study, their amygdala’s calmed down.

It is also worth noting that since videogames suppress our negative emotions, they make it harder to learn from our mistakes. This is because negative emotions are among the strongest forms of learning for the human brain.

In this way, people can become stuck playing video games. Although they may understand gaming is affecting their progress in life, they do not understand why they cannot quit and may conclude they are simply too uncommitted or lazy to fix their problems and end up playing more video games.

Gamers that wind up behaving this way may also develop Alexithymia. Alexithymia results from when someone suppresses their emotions for a long time, and is known as the inability to determine one’s inner emotional state.

In other words, gamers may lose their ability to determine what emotions they are feeling over time. Emotions may still impact their behavior, although they won’t be able to recognize when it happens.

While video games are correlated with anxiety and depression, correlation does not necessarily imply causation, meaning people who are unhappy or depressed may feel more drawn to video games since they help to suppress negative emotions. This may cause them to develop a gaming habit that causes them to get stuck in life. As such, they may end up being unhappy.

In conclusion, video games are not directly adverse to one’s mental health (i.e., they don’t cause depression), however they may cause you to develop Alexithymia and also become more dependent on games to cope with stress while reducing your negative emotions via suppressing your amygdala and thus part of your ability to learn.