Can Severe ADHD Predict Video Game Addiction?

By Paul Gaita 07/13/18

A new study explored whether there was a connection between ADHD and video game addiction.

two boys playing video games

While debate continues to swirl about the validity of video game dependency, a new study has opined that individuals with severe symptoms of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) may also be more prone to develop an equally severe dependency on video games.

The study profiled gamers, types of games, and amount of time spent playing games, and found that while a small percentage of respondents had ADHD symptoms, those individuals also exhibited tendencies toward more problematic behavior during play and longer periods of game play.

Though the study size and actual number of participants with ADHD were limited, the study authors concluded that gamers with ADHD symptoms may want to look into the risks of excessive video game play.

The study, conducted by researchers from Loma Linda University and published in the American Journal of Drug and Alcohol Abuse, was culled from an online survey of 2,801 video game players taken between December 2013 and July 2014. The participants ranged in age from 18 to 57, with an average age of 22 and 4.3 months; 93.3% were male and 82.8% were Caucasian.

After factoring the age and gender of each participant, the researchers also measured the responses by types of game and time per week spent gaming, and used the Conners' Adult ADHD Rating Scales, which measure the presence and degree of ADHD symptoms to determine severity of ADHD, if applicable.

Their analysis found that only 157, or 5.6% of respondents had what could be described as clinically significant ADHD symptoms.

Upon analyzing those participants' conclusions, the study authors suggested that in regard to type of game and length of time devoted to play, the severity of ADHD symptoms were linked to severity of video game dependency. They also put forth the notion that younger players could be at greater risk to develop more problems with video game play than older players. 

The authors also acknowledged that several factors posed limitations to the study's conclusions, including the relatively small sample size number of participants with diagnosable ADHD. Lack of female participants, which accounted for only 6.7% of respondents, also posed limitations on the study's findings.

Despite these limitations, the study authors did suggest that "individuals who report ADHD symptomatology and also identify as gamers may benefit from psychoeducation about the potential risk for problematic play."

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Paul Gaita lives in Los Angeles. He has contributed to the Los Angeles Times, Variety, LA Weekly, and The Los Angeles Beat, among many other publications and websites.