Video Games and Mental Health
Video game usage is getting more attention in the mental health world these days, with the World Health Organization now considering a diagnosis for Video Game Disorder. For those interested, here’s the latest story…
As a therapist who happens to enjoy a good gaming session, I appreciate the benefits that video games offer when it comes to fun and escapism. But I’ve also met a lot of young people with anxiety issues who have taken to using video games as their go-to avoidance strategy, to the point that they are gaming nearly non-stop when at home. If you are someone (or the parent/guardian of someone) who is struggling with an anxiety issue and also playing excessive amounts of video games, you may need to reduce that gaming time if you want to start feeling better. This is true for 2 reasons:
1. If you are gaming, you are not exposing yourself to your triggers/fears. You are not socializing (face to face), you are not going out in public, you are not exercising, you are not completing homework, you are not facing your contamination fears. This avoidance is allowing your anxiety and OCD to stick around (and probably making it worse).
2. If you are gaming, your mind is not processing anything that is happening in your life. To overcome OCD and anxiety, it is essential that you provide your brain with the opportunity to “re-learn” that you are safe and not in danger. Essentially, you have to “notice” what is going on around you. When you have a helpful therapy session, for example, and immediately go home and play X-Box or Playstation, you are depriving your brain of critical learning time. As a result, you are neutralizing the effectiveness of therapy.
Makes sense, right? But now what? See the next page for some recommendations on how to let go of that gaming controller…
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