Video Game Controller

ADHD and Video Games (aka Free Dopamine)

Post Disclaimer

The information contained in this post is for general information purposes only. The posts on this blog represent the opinions and thoughts of those with ADHD, and are in no way, shape or form meant to be used as a way to diagnose anyone with anything. If you believe that you have ADHD we urge you to reach out to our general practitioner for an initial assessment and possibly a referral to a specialist.

The allure of video games can be confusing for some, and that can become even more confusing when you see someone with ADHD who is so completely and utterly enamored in a video game to the point where they appear to be managing their game better then they are managing their own life.

I’ve played video games my entire life and my ADHD can both help and hinder that experience. Currently, I play a video game called Neverwinter. It’s a roleplaying game whereby you control a fantasy character who you will complete quests with, level up, get better armor, and fight dragons.

Our ADHD brains are lacking Dopamine in the prefrontal cortex. This leads to the symptoms that are visible such as distraction and lack of executive function. Video games provide quick successes and satisfaction to players to keep them engaged (at least earlier on). They’re supposed to be fun after all! Those with ADHD can unknowingly become addicted that quick satisfaction, and end up spending a lot of time thinking about playing in order to experience those feelings of satisfaction again.

As you might imagine, this doesn’t last. Even games get difficult, and can lead to many with ADHD to quit or cease playing as much. We may not realize it, but we were never really engaged in the video game, but instead, engaged in the quick satisfaction of leveling up, or getting a new weapon.

For others, the opposite can occur and they become obsessed with it. Sometimes this plays out as perfection and wanting to be perfect even though it’s just a video game, and we know that. We still experience the feelings of loss from the thoughts that we generate as part of the video game.

Are Video Games Good or Bad for ADHD?

Too much of anything isn’t good, video games included. Video games can be a healthy way to relieving stress and getting out of your own head for a little bit. It’s okay to be engaged in a video game and pretend that you are the one fighting dragons or saving the townspeople. It becomes a problem when those things supersede the responsibilities that you have in your life. This might look like something as obvious as not showering, or as subtle as delaying urination. (Yes, I’m 34-years-old and I will sit here in discomfort until I finish a task).

It’s also okay to use video games as a reward. If you worked all day, came home, fed the kids, did their homework with them, and spent some quality time with your family. That’s a perfect reason to spend a little time rewarding your brain.

Is There Anything Better Than Video Games?

I’m glad you asked! We like video games because the satisfaction is immediate. Once you learn how to use and enjoy delayed gratification, you will find that exercise, eating healthy, meditation and the correct medications will actually provide you with a more consistent, long-term satisfaction.

The challenge for me is to get comfortable without the spikes of Dopamine. Those Dopamine spikes can undermine the control that you may receive from your medication, for instance.

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