Video Games-A Better Treatment For Mental Illness?
Anxiety disorder, Depression, Bipolar Disorder, PTSD: conditions that all too many people are all too familiar with; myself included.
The world has come a long way since doctors used torture methods to try to treat people with these disorders; things like chemically induced seizures, having holes bored into your skull, various forms of water “therapy”, magnets; the list goes on. The more preferred method in this day and age typically requires medication of some sort, sometimes coupled with therapy.
The sad thing is that these medications are sometimes worse than the conditions they are formulated to treat. Medication for anxiety disorders sometimes causes weakness, depression, memory problems, disturbances in sleep. The irony in this is that many people with anxiety issues tend to have depression somehow interlinked with the anxiety disorder and all these side effects usually just make the anxiety worse. Depression meds, especially until you find the right one, can make gain weight, lose interest in sex, make you even more depressed or suicidal in some cases. Even worse are some of the antipsychotics prescribed for many people diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder. I had a friend who would black out and do some really horrific and dramatic things when she was on hers. When she came to, she never had any memory of the things she had done.
This isn’t the end though. Research and studies are continually showing that there is another way. More and more people are turning towards games as a treatment option; one with far fewer side effects. The number of charities and groups turning up to promote video games as a form of treatment is becoming unreal. Some people argue that it is just a coping mechanism, but it isn’t.
I think for a lot of people, including myself, it gives us back a sense of control. We can’t always control the circumstances happening within our lives; a friendship gone south, a job lost, a living situation gone wrong…but, we can control everything that we cannot in our real lives. We can live fantastical lives where anything is possible. Perhaps this is just an escape, but maybe it’s more. For me, it gives me the freedom to look at things in my life from a different perspective. Again, in those fantasy RPG’s anything is possible. There are benefits from bringing that through the screen and into our lives, especially for those that are suffering from forms of situational depression. Living through situations in a game can also show you that actually living through the situation isn’t as bad as you might have previously believed. That can lessen some forms of anxiety.
This doesn’t even take into account how playing games in stressful situations can help. For years, I have carried my 3DS and before that my DS for years for use during social situations or really any that made me uncomfortable. It kept me from having to think about all of the people around me or whatever else was going on that I didn’t want to focus on.
For those with PTSD; control seems to play a similar factor, especially those suffering from PTSD relating to military type situations. They don’t have control in war zones; they can’t know when they need to take cover, they can’t memorize where the mines are hidden, they can’t always save their friends…and they certainly can’t turn things off when things get difficult like they can the game.
Truth is, this can be our future and it is so much better than our past.