Screen Time

Video Game and Social Media Addiction Tied to ADHD

Young people with ADHD, anxiety and depression are more likely to show signs of technology addiction, according to a new study.

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Researchers at the University of Bergen, Norway, have found a positive, significant correlation between addictive use of technology and comorbid psychiatric disorders including ADHD, anxiety, depression, and obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). According to a study published in the March 2016 issue of the journal Psychology of Addictive Behaviors of the American Psychological Association, the results of large-scale, cross-sectional study suggest that men with symptoms of these disorders are more likely to engage in addictive use of video games, while women in this group are more likely to engage in addictive use of social media. The links were particularly strong among young, single study participants.

The scientists surveyed 23,533 Norwegians aged 16 to 88 about their social media and video game experiences in the previous six months. To gauge video-game addiction, the questionnaire asked respondents to rate these seven statements on a scale of “never” to “very often:”

  • You think about playing a game all day long
  • You spend increasing amounts of time on games
  • You play games to forget about real life
  • Others have unsuccessfully tried to reduce your game use
  • You feel bad when you are unable to play
  • You have fights with others over your time spent on games
  • You neglect other important activities to play games

Rating at least four of the seven items high on a scale of “never” to “very often,” suggested a negative impact on health, work, school, and or social relationships.

A regression run on the survey responses found that demographics – namely age and marital status – explained 11 to 12 percent of the variance in addictive technology use. Mental health variables explained between 7 to 15 percent of the variance.

“Excessively engaging in gaming may function as an escape mechanism for, or coping with, underlying psychiatric disorders in attempt to alleviate unpleasant feelings, and to calm restless bodies,” speculates lead author Cecilie Schou Andreassen, doctor of psychology and clinical psychologist specialist at Department of Psychosocial Science, University of Bergen.

Additionally, young men are more likely to become addicted to online gambling, pornography, video, and computer games. Young women are more likely to have problems controlling social media, texting, and online shopping behaviors. Being in a relationship decreased the likelihood of addictive use for both genders.

The authors are hopeful that this new understanding about which age groups and genders are more prone to unhealthy patterns of technology use can help parents and clinicians prevent addiction before it starts.

Journal Reference:

1. Cecilie Schou Andreassen, Joël Billieux, Mark D. Griffiths, Daria J. Kuss, Zsolt Demetrovics, Elvis Mazzoni, Ståle Pallesen. The relationship between addictive use of social media and video games and symptoms of psychiatric disorders: A large-scale cross-sectional study. Psychology of Addictive Behaviors, 2016; 30 (2): 252 DOI:10.1037/adb0000160