ISLAMABAD  - Video game addiction among children and teens may lead to the development of psychological disorders such as depression, researchers say.

The new study found that children who are more likely to become addicted to video games (which the researchers call “pathological” video gaming) are those who spend a lot of hours playing these games, have trouble fitting in with other kids and are more impulsive than children who aren’t addicted, Health News Reported.

Once addicted to video games, children were more likely to become depressed, anxious or have other social phobias. Not surprisingly, children who were hooked on video games also saw their school performance suffer. “What we’ve known from other studies is that video gaming addiction looks similar to other addictions. But what wasn’t clear was what comes before what. Gaming might be a secondary problem.

It might be that kids who are socially awkward, who aren’t doing well in school, get depressed and then lose themselves into games. We haven’t really known if gaming is important by itself, or what puts kids at risk for becoming addicted,” said Douglas A. Gentile, an associate professor of psychology at Iowa State University in Ames.

Not only did the study reveal risk factors for pathological gaming, “the real surprise came from looking at the outcomes, because we had assumed depression might be the real problem,” explained Gentile. “But we found that in kids who started gaming pathologically, depression and anxiety got worse. And, when they stopped gaming, the depression lifted. It may be that these disorders [co-exist], but games seem to make the problem worse.”

Results of the study were released online and will be published in the February issue of Pediatrics. The study included 3,034 children and teens from Singapore; 743 were in 3rd grade, 711 in 4th grade, 916 in 7th grade and 664 in 8th grade.

The children came from six primary schools and six secondary schools.

Five of the schools participating were all-boys’ schools. Almost 2,200 of the study participants were male.

The children although not their parents or teachers were surveyed annually from 2007 through 2009.

Eighty-three percent of the study volunteers reported playing video games sometimes, and another 10 percent said they had played video games in the past. The average time spent playing video games was around 20.5 to 22.5 hours a week.