THE BLOG
07/22/2016 10:47 am ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

How Games Like PokemonGo Could Be An Aid For Depressed People

Young Minds reports that approximately 10% of children aged between 5 and 16 suffers from a mental health disorder. They also indicate that approximately 8.3% of children within this age range harms themselves as a result of depression. The rate at which young individuals have been admitted to the hospital due to self-harm has also increased by 68% within the past ten years. Depression is becoming a viral problem in children, teens, and young individuals. The Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance reports that within the United States, around 14.8 million adults suffer from major depression. They also report that approximately 3% of children in the United States suffer from major depression.

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Symptoms of Depression

There are numerous symptoms of depression. Individuals diagnosed with depression or suffering from a particular type of depression usually finds it difficult to concentrate, experience a higher level of fatigue and always feel hopeless. Depression can also cause individuals to become irritated and restless. More severe symptoms include suicide attempts and self-harm.

It is important to realize when you are experiencing one or more of the symptoms commonly associated with depression. Knowing about these symptoms will allow you to seek medical help at an early stage to avoid allowing the disease to develop into something more serious.

HelpGuide.org reports that losing interest in spending time with friends and family can be a sign of depression. Depression is known to cause social anxiety in patients, which often also leads to losing control over negative thoughts. Many individuals suffering from depression also find themselves uninterested in their usual daily activities and cannot locate the joy in things they used to enjoy to do.

Causes of Depression

Depression can be caused by numerous elements within an individual's life. This could range from personal issues to additional stress being placed on the individual in their workplace. A history of physical, emotional or sexual abuse can also lead to depression. WebMD reports that an individual's risk of developing depression can be increased when they take certain prescription drugs. Some of these drugs known to increase the risk of developing depression include:

  • Interferon-alpha antiviral drug
  • Corticosteroids
  • Accutane

NHS reports that illness has also been associated with depression. When individuals are diagnosed with a disease that puts their life at risk, it can create a feeling of hopelessness within the individual and eventually lead to the development of depression. Individuals with a low self-esteem are also at a higher risk of developing the disease than individuals with a higher self-esteem.

Games and Depression

A study that was conducted to test the effects of a computerized cognitive behavior therapy technique provided evidence that treatment via the internet in the form of puzzles and games can be useful for depression treatment. A total of 22 studies were performed, and data from each study was collected and analyzed in order to draw a final conclusion. The criteria for meeting the requirements to participate in the program concluded that each participant should suffer from one of these mental disorders:

  • Major depression
  • Panic disorder
  • Social phobia
  • Generalized anxiety

The study found that the computerized program provided an effective reduction in the depression levels in patients in all four groups.

TIME also reports that a recent study on the effect of games on depression provided evidence of the effectiveness of this strategy in treating depression in both young and older patients. A computer game was developed and named SPARX. The game used various strategies to assist with depression and provided relief from depression in 44% of the participants. Furthermore, approximately 66% of the participants had a reduction in depression symptoms of 30% or more. The authors of the study compared the results of the game to the effects antidepressant medication has on an individual suffering from depression.

How Pokémon Go Fits Into The Picture

The first Pokémon game was called Pokémon Red and Blue and was released on 27 February 1996. The game was released on the Nintendo Gameboy system and marked an era of the Pokémon gaming series. Since the first version, the game has grown tremendously, with the latest release being Pokémon Go -- an interactive version of Pokémon that gets everyone involved and interacting with each other.

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Pokémon Go is a mobile game that can be downloaded on a player's smartphone. Once downloaded, the game allows a player to interact with the real world. Pokémon is little creatures that can be captured and this is exactly what the entire game is about. The game focuses on the player's geographical location by taking advantages of the built-in GPS system on the smartphone, as well as the smartphone's camera technology. A player needs to find Pokémon that is located near them to capture.

There are also Pokémon gyms to conquer and Pokémon centers that provide convenient services. All of these are spread out throughout the entire world.

The question is: "How does Pokémon Go help depressed individuals?" -- The answer to this question lies within the idea behind the game. Depressed individuals, especially when suffering from social anxiety, tend to avoid going outside and partaking in any activities that involve other people. Pokémon Go creates a fun way for these individuals to get out of their homes and to help them communicate with others. The game also encourages individuals to walk around, which results in exercise.

NHS reports that exercise assists with depression by boosting a person's mood. They also state that exercise should be something enjoyable. This will increase motivation when it comes to training. Pokémon Go assists with this by providing a fun way to walk around, play a game and still get some exercise in.

Conclusion

Depression is common in people of all ages, young and old. The disease causes several symptoms that can make life seem challenging. With several treatment options available, it can be difficult to decide on a treatment method that will work efficiently for a particular individual. Recent studies suggest that games can help provide an effective relief of the symptoms associated with depression.