Impact of internet, smartphone gaming on mental well-being There are some benefits of gaming but several challenges can harm our mental well-being

Dr Chido Rwafa-Madzvamutse Mental Wellness

As discussed in previous articles, mental health is defined as a state of well-being in which an individual realises his or her own potential, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and fruitfully, and is able to make a meaningful contribution to their community.

Young and older people alike are increasingly using internet and smartphone games as a source of entertainment and leisure, stress relief and distraction. There are some benefits of gaming but several challenges that can harm our mental well-being.

Benefits of gaming on  mental well-being

Video games when used for limited periods of time can have a positive effect on cognitive skills, helping to develop problem solving skills, improve visual-spatial skills, response times and they have been used to detect early deterioration in cognitive function for older people.

Games can aid in learning, helping with goal setting and building self-confidence when achieving goals. Games can be a useful tool to help distract and calm down difficult emotions.

Do you have a gaming problem?

  • Do you find yourself spending much more time than intended on games?
  • Are you neglecting important work or school obligations due to time spent on gaming?
  • Do you find yourself gaming during work time or in class at school?
  • Are you struggling to focus and concentrate on non-game related activity?
  • Do you get upset when you are interrupted from your gaming or cannot access your game for some reason?
  • Are you consistently using gaming as an escape from real world problems you are facing?

Harmful effects of gaming on mental well-being

  • Addiction/ Dependence: the bright colours, thrill of winning and constant adrenaline rush that gaming brings will raise our dopamine (feel good) hormone resulting in an addictive disorder
  • Social isolation: excessive gaming often leads to poor real life relationships and a sense of loneliness as well as feelings of low self-esteem and low self-worth
  • Deteriorating school or work productivity due to distraction and impaired concentration and focus
  • Escapism: using games to escape from relationship or other real life challenges and leading to poor coping skills
  • Desensitisation to violence (if playing violent games) leading to more aggressive behaviour in real life interactions with others

How can I overcome my gaming addiction?

  • Audit your time. Take some time to record how you are currently making use of your time.
  • Be deliberate about scheduling time for important tasks and obligations, avoid having “dead” time which will usually get used for gaming
  • Change your routine, invest in non-digital hobbies and physical exercise
  • Be accountable to someone for the changes you are making
  • Take time off technology and spend time with your family and friends in person
  • Reach out for help if your gaming has become unmanageable.
  • Internet Gaming Disorder is a recognised mental health challenge and help is available.

If you think that you or someone that you know may be struggling with a mental health problem, please contact your nearest health care provider and get help.

Association of Healthcare Funders of Zimbabwe (AHFoZ) article written by: Dr. Chido Rwafa- Madzvamutse, Consultant Psychiatrist.

Feedback: Dr. Chido Rwafa Madzvamutse Whatsapp+263714987729) (www.ahfoz.org; [email protected])

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