Gaming and Anxiety: The Equilibrium of Catharsis

Gaming and Anxiety: The Equilibrium of Catharsis

Yes, we care about electric vehicles and the environment! Although, other aspects of life are worth further exploration like the positive impact of technology on mental health. In a departure from our norm, one of our Guest Writers Gabriel Price a Research Analyst at Game Period shares a piece about overcoming anxiety through gaming.


Anxiety can strike us at any time in our lives. Can cause us physical pain and continued restlessness. Effective solutions for the treatment of anxiety varies from person to person; there is not a one size fits all solution. In this post, I discuss treating anxiety through video games.

While gaming is not a substitute for prescribed recommendations and advice from medical professionals; playing games can be a convenient approach to supplement care and counseling. Gaming is the conduit of catharsis, which is the "purging of the emotions or relieving of emotional tensions, especially through certain kinds of art, as tragedy or music." The following are some gaming solutions being used to treat anxiety and provide catharsis.

Mobile Apps
Research shows, that when it comes to anxiety, relief can be at your fingertips by playing a game on your cell phone. In a recent brain research study, a Neuroscientist along with a Software Engineer created a game called Personal Zen which collected anxiety research data and took the findings to create interactive activities to relieve stress. The activities boost stress resilience and decrease anxiety when used only a few minutes a day, a few days a week. It works by inspiring individuals to alter their concentration from focusing on negative thoughts to positive feelings of joy.

Puzzles
According to Leonard Herbert, a Senior Research Analyst at Game Period, a growing revelation is that anxiety in the modern age is correlated to the overwhelming amount of distractions in our daily lives. Rather than defaulting to prescriptions, studies have shown that puzzle games can reduce stress. Playing a casual game like Bejeweled can contribute to reducing anxiety since playing it causes a decrease in an internal disturbance. Even puzzle games such as Peggle and Candy Crush can compel you to concentrate on just one task and extraordinarily diminish outside distractions, ultimately helping you feel less on edge.

Simulations & The Outsider Looking In Dilemma
For those currently experiencing depression, it is hard to hear the advice of simply "Brighten up." Especially from individuals who haven't suffered from depression. Thus games that work as authentic depictions of others suffering from depression assist sufferers in feeling better and clarifies what a person in a depressed state is experiencing. A game that implements this strategy is Depression Quest; a pick your own experience game that lets you stroll through the life of a depressed individual. Another game is Elude, a game that offers a symbolic depiction of an emotional scene. 

Virtual Reality
When you're having an anxiety or an emotional break down around someone else, the most common question you hear is "What's is wrong?" with a followed suggestion of "Take a deep breath." Breathing exercises during an anxiety attack have proven to be beneficial which is why Owen Haris, a Game Designer in Ireland built Deep on the Oculus Rift. It submerges a gamer in deep breathing activities within a quiet environment that reacts to your breaths.

Online Games
Massively Multiplayer Online Role Playing Games or MMORPGs are online community games which assist children with social anxiety. The games facilitate collaboration with other children in low-risk situations; teaching them to function as a group, learn meaningful gestures and make eye contact with each other. Games such as Star Wars: Old Republic and Mario create enjoyable experiences which are easily found in normal social environments.

Catharsis is an emotional release which can achieve moral or spiritual regeneration and reduce tension and stress; fostering radical change. As stated by Aristotle catharsis is used to clarify the effect of tragedy on audiences restoring emotional equilibrium.

Gaming may not be a substitute to overcoming anxiety, but there are many benefits, one being catharsis, which has proven to have a sustaining and growing market.

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