Gaming Addiction Could Be Triggering Chronic Migraines

November 1, 2012

Are you obsessed with winning badges, higher levels and beating your virtual friends at games like World of Warcraft and Angry Birds?  Unless nature calls, or you need to go to work, are you content to spend dedicated hours online gaming, only to find that you suffer with chronic headaches?  It’s true…your parents and doctors probably told you at some point that you are addicted to gaming and it would eventually affect your health.  If you suffer with headaches or a chronic migraine condition, staring at a computer screen or TV monitor and firing away at imaginary enemies with controllers for hours at a clip may very well be triggering your headaches or migraines.

According to the University of Maryland Medical Center, tension headaches may arise from sitting in the same position and playing video games for too long.  It is believed that muscle tension causes the levels of neurotransmitters too fluctuate, sending pain signals to the brain.  Neurotransmitters are also responsible for sending pain signals during migraine attacks.  If you suffer with chronic tension headaches or chronic migraines, and you consider yourself a gaming ‘addict’,  you need to start avoiding the headache triggers caused by video gaming sensory over-stimulation.  These include:

  • Ear-splitting noise from firing weapons, vehicle crashes and loud music.
  • Vibrating sounds that ‘roll’ through your body.
  • Flashing lights from visual on-screen images.
  • Increased levels of stress, maintained over long periods of time.
  • Body tension and stiffness from sitting with terrible posture for hours.
  • Unhealthy nutrition habits that often accompany the gaming ‘lifestyle’ such as salty and sugary snacks and dehydration (from not wanting to take the time to get fresh water).

Although not a trigger, depression has been linked to both addictive behaviors like video gaming, as well as chronic tension or chronic migraine conditions.  The publication Psychology Today featured an article online earlier this year about case studies which found that video addiction may offer a way of expressing oneself in a positive social online environment, for someone who may have trouble filling those needs in their real life.  So if you find that you, or someone you know has a possible gaming addiction and a headache condition, it may be wise to look into underlying emotional issues that may be motivating this unhealthy and potentially pain triggering activity.  As with many things, moderation and self-awareness are the keys to balancing enjoyment with good health.

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