Can Video Games Help with Depression?

According to the World Health Organization (WHO) 2012 statistics, 350 million people worldwide suffer from depression. Cognitive behavioral therapy, EMDR, and ECT have been used to treat this crippling disorder, some with greater effect than others, depending upon circumstances. Medications for depression helps some of the population, but comes with adverse side effects.

While the use of video games have been considered a contributor to depression, new studies show they can actually help treat the disorder. As with anything done in excess, playing video games or binging on them, will not treat depression. Playing in moderation is an essential key.

We live in a fast-paced society that leaves little time for self-care and relaxation. Fulfilling employment opportunities are hard to find in a computerized world where robotics is fast taking over human potential. Greed is the game that’s marginalizing our incomes, creativity and gratification. It is also contributing to a world of depressed citizens.

It is challenging for depressed people to explain why they can’t just shake off depression. Video games can offer help in this regard. When formulated to represent anxiety and depression, they can actually assist patients to more effectively decode their state of mind. When depression struggles are recreated by a complete stranger, who faces the same state of mind as they do, the empathy that occurs has the potential to help them feel less lonely and more understood.

The video game Elude accomplishes this by providing metaphorical illustrations of different emotional landscapes. Another game, Depression Quest allows players to select an adventure game and see the life of a person with depression.

Patricia Arean, professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at the University of Washington, has been involved in two studies regarding the video game, Project: Evo. One study involved 600 depressed participants, and compared Project: Evo to a couple of other depression apps. The second study compared Project: Evo to traditional talk therapy. Arean’s study found the video game to be as effective as the talk therapy, because the game was exercising a part of the brain thought to be associated with depression.

According to Professor Arean, people in the studies were told to play the game every day for 20 minutes. The studies found that people who played four times a week still felt better and less depressed. She also said about 80 percent of participants felt better as a result of playing the game, including senior citizens.

“Any sufficiently advanced technology is equivalent to magic.” —Arthur C. Clarke

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