Video Games & Stress: Pros & Cons of Using Games for Relief

Introduction: Using Video Games for Stress Management

At some point in our lives, we have all experienced stress, whether it be from work, relationships, or personal issues. Stress can have a significant impact on our mental health and can cause long-term physical effects if not adequately managed. While there are many ways to manage stress – such as exercise or therapy – video games are increasingly becoming a popular tool to help individuals cope with stressful situations

The Effects of Stress on Mental Health

Stress is a natural response that occurs when the body perceives a threat. This reaction triggers the release of hormones such as adrenaline and cortisol, which prepare the body to either fight or flee. In small doses, stress can be beneficial; it can improve focus and motivation

However, chronic stress can lead to negative consequences for our mental health and overall wellbeing. Chronic stress has been linked to various mental health disorders such as anxiety and depression

Studies show that individuals with high levels of stress are more likely to develop these conditions compared to those who experience low levels of stress. Moreover, chronic stress may also lead to physical symptoms such as headaches, insomnia and digestive issues

A Brief Overview of Video Games as a Tool for Stress Management

Video games have become increasingly sophisticated over the last few decades. They offer immersive experiences that allow players to escape reality temporarily while enjoying challenging gameplay mechanics

While video games were once seen as an activity only for children and adolescents, gaming has become more mainstream today; statistics show that 65% of American adults play video games regularly. As technology continues to advance at an unprecedented rate so too do the opportunities available in gaming

Research has found that certain types of video games can help reduce anxiety levels by providing distractions from stressful situations while promoting relaxation through their gameplay mechanics. Additionally, playing video games has been shown to release endorphins – chemicals in the brain that help improve mood and reduce stress levels

Video games have become a popular tool for managing stress. While some may view gaming as a waste of time, research suggests that immersive games can provide temporary distractions and relaxation from stressful situations while releasing endorphins that promote better mental health

However, it is essential to understand both the pros and cons of using video games as a tool for stress management. The following sections will delve into this topic further

Pros of using video games for stress management

Distraction from stressful situations

Video games can provide a temporary escape from reality, making them an ideal tool for stress management. Players can immerse themselves in a virtual world, taking their minds off whatever is causing them stress in the real world

This distraction can be especially helpful when dealing with acute stressors like work deadlines or personal crises. Certain types of video games are particularly effective at providing distraction

For example, action-packed shooters and fast-paced racing games require intense focus and quick reflexes, which can help players forget about their problems. Open-world exploration games like Skyrim or Grand Theft Auto offer endless opportunities for adventure and discovery, allowing players to lose themselves in another world

Relaxation and mood improvement

Playing video games can also release endorphins, which are natural chemicals that contribute to feelings of pleasure and well-being. Endorphins serve as a natural painkiller, reducing physical discomfort while elevating mood

As such, playing video games can be an effective form of self-care for individuals experiencing high levels of stress. Certain types of video games are particularly well-suited to inducing relaxation and improving mood

Low-stakes puzzle and strategy games like Tetris or Sudoku allow players to engage their minds without feeling overwhelmed by complex gameplay mechanics or high stakes competition. Exploration-based adventure games like Journey or Abzu encourage mindfulness by creating tranquil environments where players can reflect on their thoughts while enjoying soothing music and beautiful visuals

Examples of distracting video game genres:

– First-person shooters: Call of Duty, Halo – Racing: Need for Speed, Forza Horizon – Open-world exploration: Skyrim, Grand Theft Auto

Examples of relaxing video game genres:

– Puzzle/strategy: Tetris, Sudoku – Exploration/adventure: Journey, Abzu

Cons of Using Video Games for Stress Management

Addiction Risk

While video games can provide a temporary escape from reality and can be instrumental in stress management, excessive gaming can lead to addiction and negative consequences. Gaming addiction is a behavioral addiction similar to gambling or substance abuse, where individuals continue to engage in the activity despite negative consequences. The American Psychiatric Association does not recognize gaming disorder as an official diagnosis yet; however, it is listed in the International Classification of Diseases 11th Revision (ICD-11) as a mental health condition

Warning signs of gaming addiction include spending increasing amounts of time on gaming, ignoring responsibilities such as school or work because of gaming, lying about the amount of time spent on games, and experiencing withdrawal symptoms when not playing. Like other addictive behaviors, excessive gaming can lead to financial problems, relationship issues, and physical health problems such as lack of sleep

Escapism as Avoidance

Escapism through excessive video game use can also be detrimental to mental health in the long run. While video games may provide temporary relief from stressors, they do not address the root causes of stress. In some cases, individuals may use video games as an excuse to avoid dealing with their problems

This type of avoidance behavior is counterproductive and can lead to increased anxiety and depression over time. For example, a student who has difficulty managing their workload may turn to video games instead of addressing their study habits or seeking help from a tutor or counselor

Similarly, an individual experiencing relationship issues may detach themselves from reality by immersing themselves in video games instead of working through their problems with their partner or seeking therapy. While there is no problem with using video games for relaxation or distraction occasionally when stressed out; it’s crucial that individuals are aware that relying too heavily on them could be counterproductive

How to Avoid Gaming Addiction and Escapism

To prevent gaming addiction and escapism, individuals should monitor their video game usage and ensure that it does not interfere with daily responsibilities such as work, school, or family commitments. They should also be aware of the warning signs of addiction and seek help if necessary. It’s essential to create a balance between gaming and other activities such as exercise, socializing with friends or family, reading a book or other hobbies that can provide stress relief without relying solely on video games.

Additionally, it’s important to recognize the underlying causes of stressors and address them instead of using video games as an escape. Seeking therapy or counseling can help individuals develop coping mechanisms for dealing with stressors in a healthy way


While playing video games can provide temporary relief from stressors; excessive use can lead to addiction and avoidance behavior resulting in long-term negative consequences. It’s essential for individuals to monitor their usage and be aware of warning signs that may signal addiction. By creating a balance between gaming and other activities such as exercise or socializing; individuals can manage their stress effectively while avoiding the negative repercussions of excessive video game use


After analyzing the pros and cons of using video games for stress management, it’s clear that they can be an effective tool when used in moderation. The distraction and relaxation that gaming provides can be useful for taking a break from the stresses of daily life. However, it’s important to be mindful of the potential risks, such as addiction and avoidance of real-life problems

Summary on the pros and cons discussed

On the positive side, video games offer a temporary escape from reality, allowing individuals to take a break from their problems. They also have the potential to improve mood and release endorphins through calming gameplay.

On the negative side, excessive gaming can lead to addiction and negative consequences, such as social isolation or neglecting responsibilities. Additionally, relying too heavily on gaming as a coping mechanism can ultimately lead to more stress in the long-term


Based on these findings, it’s recommended that individuals use video games for stress management in moderation. It’s important to set limits on how much time is spent playing games and prioritize real-life responsibilities first. Finding a balance between relaxation techniques like gaming and other healthy coping mechanisms such as exercise or mindfulness practices is also crucial

Additionally, it’s essential to be aware of warning signs for addiction or avoidance behaviors related to gaming. Seek support from mental health professionals if necessary

Overall, video games have potential as a tool for stress management but must be used with caution and in combination with other healthy practices. Awareness of both their benefits and drawbacks will allow individuals to make informed decisions about incorporating them into their self-care routine while maintaining balance in all aspects of life