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Gaming and mental illness: using games as a coping mechanism

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Gaming has progressed from being a mere hobby to an alternative for treating mental illnesses. Gaming has proven to be a useful coping mechanism for those with mental health issues, such as stress disorders, depression, and anxiety. A nice set of games involves escapism from the real world and a sense of achievement that helps relieve the symptoms of mental illnesses.

Studies have found that gaming can help alleviate anxiety and depression symptoms. The sense of accomplishment from completing game tasks can boost confidence, which improves self-esteem. Additionally, gaming helps distract the player from their emotional distress, providing a temporary and much-needed form of relief. Online gaming communities can provide social connections to those who have a hard time connecting in their daily life.

For anxiety, playing certain games, such as puzzle games or simulation games, improve cognitive functioning and relieve particular symptoms that arise from anxiety. According to the Journal of Health Psychology, video games such as Tetris induces a ‘flow state,’ which is considered a feeling of mental serenity and complete immersion in a task, making the players forget about the outside world. Puzzle games like Journey, Lego sets, and Minecraft, give the player a feeling of control, allowing them to build and explore their worlds, aiding in reducing anxiety symptoms.

Playing games such as Minecraft, also improve cognitive functioning, as they improve creativity, problem-solving, and attention. Such games provide a healthy constructive outlet that people can utilize to vent their emotions and struggles, rather than keeping everything bottled up inside, which itself is a debilitating factor for one’s mental health.

Playing video games like interactive dramas such as Life is Strange, could encourage players to open up about their mental health challenges. In an interview published in the journal of Nervous Disease, game developer Nicolas Guerin stated that the aim of Life is Strange was “to create a video game focused on serious topics, such as mental illness and depression.” The game’s plot, revolving around the consequences of one’s choices and decisions, highlights how each action can have a ripple effect and encourage players to reflect on their own choices in real life.

According to a study published in Cyberpsychology, Behavior, and Social Networking, playing video games, such as Call of Duty, can provide a sense of fulfillment to those with ‘anxiety-driven perfectionism.’ Players who tend to have high levels of anxiety and perfectionism found a way of coping with such anxiety by playing these types of game, where they maintain control over the situation and become successful in an environment with high expectations.

In conclusion, gaming proves to be a helpful tool in managing one’s mental health and reducing symptoms of various mental disorders. While gaming should not be the only treatment for mental illnesses, it offers a beneficial adjunct therapy. It is vital to encourage individuals who face mental health challenges to find healthy, constructive outlets that allow them to either express or vent out their emotions healthily.

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