Depression and Gaming

BalzacbeeBalzacbee Member
edited August 2012 in The Guild
Since the Guild is about gaming, I thought I'd fire this out.

Has there been any research into the frequency of gaming and depression?  I not suggesting a causal relationship, but one of many red flags that could indicate further assistance.  I had a nephew who was a huge gamer.  He tended towards Star Craft (when I last spent time around him anyhow).  Gradually, he isolated himself - evolving from a pretty upbeat kid to one that rarely spoke.  He took his life about 4 months ago .....


  • Not having any knowledge of any research done I can only give my own impressions having been a gamer all my life and well before PCs had any place in our lives. I think that gamers run the gamut of humans, I have not seen any leaning towards depression in gamers than in any other area of life, I have met depressed gamers certainly and of course any lifestyle that tends towards introspection and isolation is a red flag along with other symptoms. However this red flag does have to be showing in relation to many others and not in splendid isolation, a gamer is no more likely to be depressed than the rest of humanity and in many ways gaming can remove loneliness and isolation. Without gaming I would be depressed as I would have no social outlet and so gaming keeps me positive and happy as I meet so many people and find links to others that I do not find elsewhere.

    I tend to see a label slapped on gaming from people who do not game about it having negative effects but similar effects are given by sitting alone reading or watching TV and even going running for hours alone, when gaming you are generally with people and with people who have the same interests and therefore you feel acceptance.

    Maybe research would show different but that's my experience.

    When not gaming I knit so I don't kill people so beware of a gamer girl with pointy sticks!
  • Neither do i have knowledge of the situation and can only express my own opinion.
    I think that the problem isn't directly in the fact that we become gamers and play a lot, but how and how much we reach this world. As Ice said, gaming can help againts loneliness since you can play with other gamers, but we must consider that there are even single player games (like RPG for consoles) and even online games can be quite lonely since you play with other with who you don't interact and socialize. Like everything in the world, gaming to much or reading to much or any other thing done extremely, can bring emotional problems, like isolation and depression.
    The alarm should arrive when a child or a youngster starts playing to much, and prefers playing 8 hours than going out for a walk with friends. Human contact is important, and with many consoles the gaming world is becoming more lonely, and games like Magic or D&D, where you play with people, are becoming less popular or underrated.
    I suppose there is a study somehow of gamers behavior in young age, if there are cases of games dependence dangerous like drugs (like the 38 year old guy that had and heart attack for playing 72 hours no stop at Diablo III). If there isn't any study though, i suggest to start it, since it's important and can be quite dangerous.
  • edited August 2012 PM
    No expert here either, but I have seen those labelled "socially awkward" turn to internet gaming socialization as a "last resort" to being accepted, because the physical aspect of socialization is removed.  It's just your voice, the game you love, and those who also love it.  Seems like a simple recipe for social success. 

    But for any who have been a member of an internet gaming social group, there usually is those who are on the outs of those social circles as well.  Depending on the level of desperation in the individual...well we all know. 

    Games are not the reason, nor is internet socialization.  However if you see someone retreat into video game socialization and their symptoms worsen, do not be afraid to seek immediate help.

    Someone very close to me went through a severe depression and even spoke to me about suicide.  And they were very serious.  I did everything I could to bring them out of it, and often felt I was being drawn into it myself.  Eventually everything worked out, and I am a lot more aware of the early signs now.  At times I come across  like a nag when I see some of the signs, but I'd rather the stigma, then see them go through it again.

    Online or otherwise it is very difficult assisting someone going through a depression, because THEY have to want to be better, not just in words, but actions. 
  • soma_holidaysoma_holiday Member
    edited August 2012 PM
    Gamers are an increasingly hot topic for research right now in anthropology, linguistics, and likely sociology as well.  So much so that the central library at my university has consoles and games available as research material.

    I don't know of any studies specifically that you could look at, but an initial search on the following research databases did offer results when I used the search terms "gaming," "video games OR computer games," and "depression":

    Web of Knowledge: 83
    Science Direct: 31
    JSTOR: 50
    ProQuest (database of dissertations & theses): 1856
    EBSCO Psychology & Behavioral Sciences Collection: 83
    PsycInfo: 292
    Sociological Abstracts: 4

    And just for the hell of it, I did a search on Google Scholar, and ended up with 19,900 results.

    And that is not every database I could have checked.  Of course not all of those articles would be exactly relevant...that's the unfortunate truth about research, but it's a pretty promising start.  Lots of potential ( and scholarly) articles to weed through.

    And I'm really very sorry about your nephew.  =/  For someone to take their own life, though, I'm sure you know there is always a LOT more going on than just what may have been observed.
    I have a book blog. You can check it out if you want:
  • I had very severe depression for quite a while and gaming really helped, it gave me an escape from the real world and my feeling which was much needed, and got me out of my head. I played mmos and socialized a bit but I didnt really play it too socialize, just to escape. When I got better I had a break from games for a couple of years because I had overdone it and it reminded me of being ill, but lately have returned to it, not in the intensity I used to use it, now im just casual.
  • KharKhar Member
    edited August 2012 PM
    So I did a little research on this, using the OvidSP database (yay for having access to articles!). A number of topics came up in varying levels of relevance, but since I tend to ramble and overstate things, I'm going to make a very strong effort to keep this shorter than my usual posts on other sites. For example, one study was able to connect internet addiction and increased use of the internet to increasing levels of depression. Significant correlations were found between playing MMOs and depression rates, especially if the person in question plays late at night (around 2 am and later). MMOGs in general were found to be significantly correlated with psychological dependency and deficient self regulation, and the preference for a virtual life not associated with negative social skills. 

    Note, however, that only heavy use of games have been linked to negative outcomes. The case presented by The Guild, and especially by the Day's character, are probably the cases we'd see most. Sometimes someone is withdrawn because they just need alone time, or are introverted. Sometimes they want to escape for reasons other than depression. The link has been made, certainly, but only at the weakest significance levels and in the most extreme of cases. 

    Most of the time, the link simply isn't there. Most studies attempting to find a link are inconclusive. Most seem to be, by my opinion, significantly underestimating the sample size needed to find a viable result. For those not in the know, the larger your sample size, the better it is statistically for finding out whether something is happening or not. When I mention significance, usually I'm hence referring to statistical significance as a result. 

    As an interesting aside to Table Top fans, it was found in one study that the same heavy use of Pen and Paper games was not correlated -- only heavy use of video games. The different medias of gaming tended to have different results in the studies overall. Video games showed a population with higher predilection towards psychological, social, or personal problems overall than did PnP. 

    I remember not too long ago a documentary about kids in South Korea actually having to go to special camps to help them with their video game addictions. All of the kids had some eye or hearing damage as a result of constant gaming. Some were developing cardiovascular problems from sitting all the time, even if they ate healthy. Many of them had problems socializing. A great many showed depressive symptoms. The decision for many of the parents was simple -- cut the kid of gaming. Other efforts have been refocused on changing what the games do. One game, named Sparx, I believe, has been specifically designed to help fight cases of mild depression, for example. However, given the territory we are in is clinical massive depression, I doubt that would mean much of a difference. 

    tl;dr ending. There are connections between constant video gaming and massive depression, social problems and other health issues. These occur in the extreme of cases and otherwise have not been shown to be strongly correlated. However, there have been more calls in recent years to expand on studies previously done to see if that connection exists. 

    I won't lie. As a gamer who fought depression, I most definitely fell into gaming more.
    A force of awkwardness has arrived!
  • I think you may find more of a correlation between sitting and depression and other health problems than anything directly involved in playing a computer game.  I think you may find enough evidence to demonstrate causation of ill effects from sitting.

    Prescription:  Spend 15 minutes walking, running or just moving between every 30 minutes of sitting.  A standing desk/workstation is better that sitting, and can prolong the break periods.  Doing the treadmill desk setup could actually do some long term harm if you're over doing the exercise.  Yes, too much exercise is a bad thing!  (This coming from someone who used to average 4 hours a day at the gym).

    You can get addicted to doing just about anything. That may have more to do with YOU than the activity you're doing. Deeply emersive MMOs like World of Warcrack can suck you in for hours on end, but don't be hating on the game. If you're susceptible to getting in that state of playing until you lose track of time (also known as fun), then you have to take steps to take a break (a timer usually works - except in the middle of that raid you and your group have been planning for hours).

    I've now set up a limit on myself to do the MMO on Tuesday night for no longer than three hours (+/- 30 min), and do the tabletop game on Thursday night (usually for 4 hours - more like 3 the way everyone likes to socialize).

    I think the face-to-face gaming is important.  Social interaction is important.  Having a life is important.

    Now, thanks to Settler's of Catan, my family wants every Friday night to be our game night - that, and it's the night they can eat junk food.

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