ADHD, school grades and video gaming addiction

Gaming and ADHD often go hand in hand

During my time working in Singapore’s National Addiction clinic for teenagers with video gaming addiction (gaming disorder), we published 2 years worth of data that showed 42% of teenagers seeking treatment had a previous mental heath diagnoses. The most common co-occurring mental health disorder was attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). The most common negative consequence was a drop in academic grades.

ADHD can make gaming addiction worse

Data from 3 South Korean gaming addiction clinics showed that gamers aged 13-38 seeking help suffered a more severe form of gaming addiction if they also had ADHD. 

When I am working with a gamer via telehealth, I will routinely screen for ADHD symptoms and ask about the effect on school grades (or work/chores if no longer at school).

List of common mental health disorders in teenagers seeking help for gaming addiction and common negative consequences (Wei, Le 2016)

Gaming is more exciting than homework

So how do we explain the connection between ADHD and gaming disorder? There are 2 main explanations for this, the “excitement” and “displacement” hypotheses. Video games are simply more fun and exciting than other activities that require effort like washing the dishes, sitting at the dinner table or finishing your English assignment. If all your school work is on a school laptop, focusing on educational tasks are so much harder if you have ADHD. Secondly, the more time you spend competing in a shooting game, building/defending your base or having fun with friends online, the less time you have for brain building activities like homework and sleep.

Getting Help

Attention is just like working out a muscle in the gym, use it or lose it. If the ADHD is appropriately treated, the gaming disorder may also improve. Treatment does not always involve medication, you might seek talking therapy or an ADHD coach. However, medication treatment can only be started with the recommendation of a paediatrician or psychiatrist. If you think your child or loved one may have attention or gaming problems or both, you can make an appointment to see me today. All you need is a referral from your GP.  


1. Chuang Wei MW, Le HK, Gomez B, Kee Koh P, Guo S. Profile of adolescents seeking treatment for excessive computer gaming at an addiction treatment service in Singapore. Australian & New Zealand Journal of Psychiatry. 2017;51(6):634-635. doi:10.1177/0004867416676368

2. Starcevic V, Choi TY, Kim TH, Yoo SK, Bae S, Choi BS, Han DH. Internet gaming disorder and gaming disorder in the context of seeking and not seeking treatment for video-gaming. J Psychiatr Res. 2020 Oct;129:31-39. doi: 10.1016/j.jpsychires.2020.06.007. Epub 2020 Jun 7. PMID: 32559506.

3. Gentile, D.A., Swing, E., Lim, C.G., & Khoo, A. (2012). Video Game Playing, Attention Problems, and Impulsiveness: Evidence of Bidirectional Causality. Psychology of popular media culture, 1, 62-70.

Most common co-occurring disorders with gaming addiction (Starcevic 2020).