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Negative Effects of Video Games and How to Manage Them

Written by: Jasmine Chiam
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Video games are a double-edged sword. Research has associated gaming with a plethora of benefits, including improved mood and a lower risk of psychological symptoms such as depression or anxiety. The cooperative component of some video games may also enhance your ability to work with people and sustain meaningful and healthy relationships in social settings [12].

However, too much of something usually does more harm than good. As gaming becomes one of the world’s most popular leisure activities, the body of evidence demonstrating the harmful effects of video games on our physical and mental health continues to enlarge [3].

Of course, this doesn’t doom every gamer to devastating consequences. However, by understanding the possible adverse outcomes of video gaming, you can keep an eye out for warning signs or symptoms and take prompt action to ensure things don’t spiral out of control.

Here are some of the most common negative repercussions of excessive and unhealthy gaming habits, along with some management and prevention strategies to tackle them.

#1 Repetitive Stress Injuries

Repetitive strain injuries (RSI) refer to pain and damage of the tendons, muscles, and nerves that result from frequently prolonged repetitive movements and overuse. RSI is one of the most common esports injuries. 

In competitive gaming, you’re required to execute repetitive, precise, and mechanical motions using a mouse, keyboard, or controller for long periods. In fact, esports athletes and professional players likely spend around 12-15 hours each day on training and practice to qualify for national competitions and contest for trophies at elite levels [4].

As a result of these sustained repetitive movements, the normal functioning of the muscles, tendons, or nerves is compromised, leading to characteristic symptoms such as pain, swelling, numbness, weakness, stiffness, and a reduced range of motion [4]. At times, these orthopedic manifestations may be severe enough to warrant invasive surgery or long-term therapy [5].

However, you can prevent such injuries by avoiding prolonged periods of gaming and breaking up training sessions with adequate breaks in between. Ergonomic equipment may help, though research supporting its use is weak.

#2 Affected Mental Health

Gaming may lead you to either end of the spectrum—improved mood and reduced anxiety or the development of harmful coping mechanisms.

Research has shown a medium-strength association between unhealthy video game use and poor overall mental health, social skills, and psychological functioning. Your self-esteem may also be affected, and you may feel lonely or distressed more often. According to such studies, spending far too many hours in front of the screen long-term may prevent you from seeking support in a social environment or practising and fostering self-beneficial coping mechanisms [6, 7]. 

In addition to that, research has also suggested that video gaming may lead to heightened depression and anxiety [8]. 

To make things clear, playing video games does necessarily predispose you to these adverse mental health effects. When faced with immense real-life pressure, many of us turn to video games as a form of entertainment and stress-release outlet. And that could, in contrast, be helpful. 

However, say you’re worried that video games are, in fact, a permanent escape avenue for you, keeping you from addressing and dealing with real-life problems. In that case, you may wish to seek the advice and help of a mental health professional whenever you feel ready.

#3 Video Game Addiction

Esports athletes are bound to spend extended periods on gaming. Moreover, gaming is becoming an increasingly popular hobby and leisure activity. So, what amount of training and gaming is considered acceptable, and when does it become an addiction?

The symptoms of video game addiction may be a little challenging to detect. Generally, an individual may be thinking about gaming the entire day or face challenges at work, home, or school due to unhealthy gaming practices. Additionally, they may not be able to abstain or lower their playtime despite the dire need to and may need to play more and more to feel happy [9].

 If you are concerned that you may have a self-damaging compulsion towards video games, it’s always best to reach out for support. Find a safe space to consult a health professional or therapist about how you may progress towards a positive goal. And if possible, allow one or two trusted friends or family to come alongside you throughout the journey.

Admittedly, it’s much easier said than done. Addictions are not easy to kick. So don’t beat yourself up over it if you don’t achieve what you want to the first few attempts.  

#4 Disordered Sleep Patterns 

We’ve all been told that getting enough quality sleep is crucial for our physical and mental health. Unfortunately, unhealthy gaming habits have been associated with a drastic lack of sleep, changes in sleeping patterns, sleep deprivation, poorer sleep quality, daytime fatigue, and the onset of sleep problems [10]. 

Research has also demonstrated that playing video games during the evening and closer to bedtime may also reduce sleep quality [10]. 

Preferably, you minimize your electronic consumption before going to bed. Usually, putting your devices away an hour or two before bedtime allows you to enjoy better quality sleep and fall asleep quicker.

Doing so isn’t a must. But if you’ve been feeling lethargic and experiencing poor concentration during the day due to late-night gaming, this is a healthy habit to adopt. 


Video games have earned a notorious reputation for being a catalyst of physical and mental health problems. The aim of this article isn’t to fortify that notion.

Video gaming in itself isn’t harmful. But compulsive and unhealthy gaming practices can lead to a host of problems, including repetitive strain injury, poor psychological functioning, addiction, and reduced sleep quality. 

Understandably, gaming may be a massive outlet for you to release stress and bond with friends. Or perhaps, you’re keen on pursuing an esports career. There’s nothing wrong with that. But if you notice you’ve been struggling with problematic gaming habits lately, it’s best to seek professional help and advice the soonest you can. 

Disclaimer: This is an educational post on managing the negative effects of video games. It should not substitute the advice given by your healthcare professional. EsportsHeadlines.com and the author of this post disclaim any liability for the decisions you make based on this information, as it is not meant for diagnostic or treatment purposes.