How Video Games can Help with Mental Illness
Anxiety is one of the most common mental illnesses in the US with over 40 million people affected by it. But did you know that video games can actually help reduce anxiety and help with mental health issues? There have been plenty of reports of video games helping with mental illnesses, but how exactly do they help?
Based on a study by the Michigan State University’s Jason Moser, participants who took part in playing a video game exercise proved to be less anxious and more focused. The game involved exercises such as identifying shapes and helped participants maintain concentration.
The main aim of the game is to distract the player for a period of time. In this period, the player’s mind is so distracted by what is happening on the screen that they don’t have time to think about anything else. The study also went on to show that participants showed improved concentration and lessened anxiety even after they have finished playing the game.
Now the game wasn’t a big blockbuster title like Call of Duty or The Witcher 3, as it was specifically designed by researches to stimulate the brain and distract it. Although you might not get the same effect with your video games at home, there are still many ways they can help with mental illnesses.
This one might not seem like a mental health benefit, but hear us out. Knowing that you have to keep trying and that you must be determined is vital if you want to avoid falling into a slump. If any of you have ever played Dark Souls, you’ll know that video games turn people into tryers.
Although research has been done into this, it seems obvious when you think about it; Games punish you when you fail, but promise a great reward if you keep playing. It’s not just the crushingly difficult games that improve people’s motivation either.
Fight your way through hard raid bosses on WoW or enter a League of Legends ranked match and you’ll quickly learn what defeat feels like; It teaches you that no matter how hard you try, something might go awry, leaving you to start all over again; And that’s okay, so long as you stick at it. Speaking from personal experience, we’ve learned more about discipline and tenacity from video games than anything else in life.
Helps Understand Negative Emotions
Most people don’t watch a horror movie to enjoy a well-crafted narrative. No, most people go so that they can feel frightened, which does seem a little silly, but why do we do it?
The truth is that being angry or hurt in a controlled environment helps us deal with those emotions. The reason people eat spicy foods isn’t because they’re masochists (well okay, maybe some of them) but for most people, spicy foods are a way to feel pain without actually harming your body. So why is it that when teenagers get angry at League of Legends, parents often take away their PC?
We’re by no means saying that they should keep their PC if they’re breaking objects or harming people, but feeling intense emotion over games isn’t bad – Afterall, we don’t get angry when people cry over movies, so why do we punish people for learning to cope with their emotions. Without an outlet to throw their feelings at, people are more prone to violence, which the studies reflect. Contrary to popular belief, book readers are more likely to commit violent acts than gamers are, so encourage people to consider that before turning off the wifi.
Keeps Your Brain Healthy
Puzzle games come in many different shapes and sizes, from the classic Tetris to the popular Candy Crush. The aim of these games is to give your brain something to focus on and solve, distracting your brain from other distractions.
Studies show that by playing these casual puzzle games and brain teasers they can actually reduce stress and anxiety in your life. Playing one of these puzzle games every day forces you to focus on the game and leave any other issues behind, helping you reduce your anxiety. If that wasn’t enough, they can even help prevent degenerative brain diseases!
In fact, the largest fanbase of puzzle games is middle-aged women – although, playing these kinds of games can help older people keep their minds in shape, they’re great for younger people too.
The next time you’re feeling anxious or distracted have a quick game on a stimulating puzzle game and see how you feel after, you might be surprised!
Improves Social Skills
Online multiplayer games are great for players who suffer from social anxiety. Gamers are no longer socially isolated thanks to the internet and online games. 20 years ago when the internet and technology wasn’t as well developed players would spend most of their time playing in isolation. But fast forward to today and multiplayer games have drastically changed.
Players can now interact with each other via voice, typing, and even webcam in some games. Popular multiplayer games today like Counter-Strike: Global Offensive have voice communication built into the game which adds a new level of interaction amongst players.
League of Legends is also a popular online game and many players choose to communicate through voice communication using programs such as Discord and TeamSpeak. Doing this encourages players to socialize with each other without the stress of having tocommunicate face to face. This helps people with social anxiety communicate and develop their social skills, ultimately becoming more comfortable in social situations. Being socially adept will make making friends easier, and having friends will make mental problems easier to cope with.
Video games can also help you cope with failure and disappointment. Let’s face it, when you play an online game you’re not going to win all the time. There is always somebody out there that is better than you. By learning to lose and handle your tilt you can actually look at improving your game by doing something about it instead of just moaning.
We hope you’ve learned how video games can help you with mental difficulties and as research progresses we’ll only discover more about the human brain. Who knows, in the future your doctor might be prescribing you a 3 hour League of Legends session!
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