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ADHD & Video Games: What's the Connection?

By Dr. David Velkoff

For many parents of ADHD children, it can be a frustrating experience to see their child intensely focused on a video game, while at the same time, their homework is left unattended and unfinished in their backpacks.

After all, while we know ADHD and ADD are disorders that affect a person’s ability to focus, it seems only logical to assume that if a child can dedicate so much time and energy to a complicated video game, then they should be able to direct that energy and focus on other tasks like schoolwork as well.

Unfortunately, many parents have discovered that ADHD and video games are oftentimes inseparable.

While it’s true that there are some students who, for whatever reason, don’t care very much about schoolwork, we also have to recognize that it is equally true that there are more children and adolescents who simply cannot “flip the switch” and focus on their schoolwork like they can with videogames.

In fact, many children and adolescents suffering from ADHD/ADD can literally become addicted to video games, regardless of how bright or intelligent they are.

There is actually a neurophysiological reason why a child can become so attached to video games at the expense of his/her academic responsibilities, and it is the goal of the Drake Institute to help educate parents and educators of these reasons so that the child can receive the help that they need and deserve.

ADHD and Video Game Addiction: It Starts with the Brain

In order to understand why there is such a strong connection between video games and ADHD, it is necessary to first understand that in children with ADD or ADHD, the frontal lobe of the brain is commonly dysregulated.

It doesn't matter how intelligent he or she is. His/her frontal lobe is "stuck" in abnormal or dysregulated brain wave patterns. The most common finding is the brain is stuck in excessive slow brain waves, making it very difficult to concentrate over a long period of time on non-preferred tasks, which is usually homework or classwork. Frequent redirection by parents or teachers is necessary to compensate for the child's inability to sustain concentration.

In addition, the connections in the frontal region of the brain may not be strongly connected, called "Hypocoherence" whereby the communication pathways in the brain are partially nonfunctional, again resulting in the frontal lobe being underpowered and inefficiently functioning.

This would be analogous to working in a company with 19 departments where 10 of the departments do not communicate with each other, so the company runs poorly due to poor internal communication and inefficiency. The ADD brain operates in similar fashion.

In essence, the brain being stuck in abnormal slow brain wave patterns or having weak functional connections causes the brain to be underpowered, irrespective of the child's intelligence.

Why Can My Child Still Focus on a Video Game?

However, the child or adolescent can be stuck in a slow brain wave pattern and still remain focused on a video game for 3 hours.

This is because video games are so stimulating that it holds their attention even with the frontal lobe underactivated or dysregulated. Again, one's brain does not have to be fully powered or activated to stay focused on activities that are stimulating such as video games, their favorite TV shows, or even legos.

Non-preferred tasks such as most academic tasks are not exceptionally stimulating, so the brain needs to be fully powered or activated for the non-preferred academic tasks. This is why there can be such a problematic difference with ADD or ADHD kids between how effectively they can focus on non-preferred, non-stimulating tasks such as homework compared to preferred tasks such as stimulating video games, computer games or TV.

The resulting problem is that video games can reinforce the brain being in an underactivated or underpowered state while they are avoiding important tasks for their development and success. The brain is defaulting to what is a lower requirement for brain functioning to play a video or computer game.

Excessive time spent on video games or computer games can reinforce the ADD brain.This leads many parents to ask the question, “do video games cause ADHD?” The answer to this question, however, is no, video games are not a direct cause of ADHD. Video game addiction is just another unfortunate side effect caused by the underlying problem; ADD or ADHD. 

How the Drake Institute Can Help

At the Drake Institute, we believe that improving or resolving ADD and ADHD symptoms is a process that can frequently be helped without the use of medication. In order to provide patients with the long-term results that they deserve, we must first tackle the root of the problem: the brain’s dysregulation.

For three decades, the Drake Institute has been utilizing advanced qEEG brain mapping technologies with neurofeedback to successfully treat patients suffering from ADD and ADHD. The individualized, brain map-guided neurofeedback protocols at the Drake Institute are developed to enable the brain to get unstuck and develop to improved functioning, whether the task is interesting or not.

Many tasks we have to complete in life are not always stimulating, but we have to complete them anyway to succeed. ADD kids are disadvantaged in that they have trouble doing this normally, but our treatment process helps their brain become much more empowered to succeed.

Our treatment plans provide children with a process to enhance their ability to self-regulate and self-motivate to focus effectively on non-preferred tasks. This means that we can help children both improve or overcome the negative symptoms associated with ADD and video game addictions and live healthier, more fulfilled lives.

Contact Us Today

Is your son or daughter struggling with ADHD and video game addiction? If so, please call the Drake Institute to schedule a no-cost screening consultation.

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