Why can’t I get my ADHD kid to stop playing video games?

By: Kristin Martineau | February 13, 2018

Simple answer? Dopamine.

Dopamine is an organic chemical that plays a major role in reward motivated behavior. Our brains are wired to seek dopamine because it’s responsible for feelings of pleasure and reward. Food, sex, social media, accomplishment, exercise and new experiences are some of the things that give us a dopamine hit.
” . . . some researchers have looked at a neurotransmitter called dopamine as a possible contributor to ADHD. Dopamine allows us to regulate emotional responses and take action to achieve specific rewards. . . . . Scientists have observed that lower levels of dopamine are associated with symptoms of ADHD”
This may be the reason that people with ADHD tend to engage in highly stimulating behavior. Things like video games, driving fast, risky behavior and extreme sports motivate ADHD brains to focus. People with ADHD tend to chose high intensity careers like firefighters, ER doctors and Emergency Medical Technicians.

Video games are an easy dopamine hit. ADHD brains especially crave that sort of thing.

So what can you do?

Offer lots of healthy ways for your chid to engage in stimulating behavior. It may take some trial and error to figure out what works. My daughter that has ADHD loves running but hates soccer. We were confused by her refusal to go to a game one Saturday because she had been having so much fun in practice. She eventually was able to articulate that she was really uncomfortable with having an audience because it was really overwhelming and distracting for her. Once we discovered that, we were more tuned in to what would work for her. Art is another activity that is stimulating and engaging for her. She’s much calmer when she gets to do these kinds of activities several times a week. So take some time to experiment and be patient with the process.

ADHD medication can be a big help too. Many ADHD medications work by increasing dopamine and stimulating focus. Of course this is a personal decision based on your situation and it takes some time to get this right too. It’s really trial and error to find the right type of medication and dosage for your child. Your doctor will recommend what will most likely work the best for your child and make adjustments from there.

Using screen time as a reward can motivate your child to complete other tasks that he doesn’t enjoy as much. Video games aren’t a problem unless they are interfering with your child’s ability to live a full happy life. Make sure you are offering lots of opportunities for stimulation and dopamine release that offer positive consequences for him.


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