Anxiety and the Positive Benefits of Gaming

Mario gets a gold star

Apparently, as I learned in the RadioWest podcast episode I listened to just a month ago, we live in the “age of anxiety”.  The author of a new book called Just Can’t Stop delves into the realm of compulsions and how small compulsions are evolution’s way of helping us cope with overwhelming situations.  In the podcast she talked about mental health and the difference between serious, need to get help compulsions and minor, help you cope with your minor anxiety compulsions.  It really pushed some ideas inward and I’ve been seriously contemplating my own battles and what they’ve meant in my life.  So let’s get personal.

About 5 months ago I was diagnosed with debilitating anxiety and minor depression.  After struggling with the inability to function for about 10 months I finally, with the support and courage of my wonderful husband, sought professional help.  It was incredibly difficult for me to admit that I needed any help and incredibly difficult for me to come to terms with the fact that I wasn’t my mom – I couldn’t handle the stress of my life with the aplomb and poise that she does.

Since I started down this destructive path I’ve found that one of the best coping mechanisms for me has been video games.  And now, after seeking help and understanding a little better where my anxiety and depression come from, I know why.  I think I want to share this, not only because it’ll help me but because maybe it’ll help you, too!

I feel like I am in control:

When I look at my life I do not feel in control of my situation – work, our home being built, children getting sick, my daycare quitting and leaving me in a bit of a lurch, and the list continues.  Playing a video game, especially because I pretty much stick to single player games or modes like Breath of the Wild or one player MarioKart, allows me to be in control of my entire situation.  I want to explore in that direction, I can.  I get to control where I go, when I accomplish tasks, how long it’ll take, and how to approach an enemy.  This, for someone who feels like their life is spiraling, is a positive experience and helps me feel a little more inner peace and calm.

I can get upset without becoming mean:

I try to be as kind as I can.  I don’t understand other people’s experiences, where they are coming from, or why they behave certain ways.  As such, I try to give people the benefit of the doubt when something goes wrong or they screw something up.  But it leaves me with a pretty big ball of frustration that I’ve been unable to lose.  When I play a video game I can get mad at the RNG gods without feeling like I am judging someone too harshly or becoming a toxic player.  I can get frustrated without disrupting someone else’s experience.  This gives me an outlet for my frustration without ruining any relationships or people.

It allows me to set and achieve goals:

When you are struggling with anxiety it can be incredibly difficult, even impossible, to set and achieve goals.  You feel overwhelmed and paralyzed by fear all the time.  When I play a video game I am given tasks and goals and a desire to finish them.  Every time I finish a side quest I know I’ve accomplished something.  Whenever I beat a dungeon or boss I feel like I’m making a difference and finishing a major task.  These small victories do wonders for my self esteem and positive outlook, even if they are virtual.  It’s something that didn’t require much thought or even, sometimes, much work on my part.  But it’s something that helps me feel just a little bit better about myself.  With enough game victories I usually feel a little more capable to set and accomplish real life goals.

The games I play bring me joy:

In the book Essentialism by Greg Mckeown, he spends a great deal of time discussing the importance of doing something because it brings you joy.  It doesn’t necessarily accomplish a task or goal, it just makes you happy.  Video games make me happy.  I love the stories, the music, the characters, and the feeling of being involved in another world.  And when you are depressed the importance of  doing something that makes you happy and fires off that dopamine becomes even more essential.  So I play because it makes my life a better place.

What kind of happiness do you find playing video games?  Are there any lessons you’ve learned about how video games have positively affected your life?

21 thoughts on “Anxiety and the Positive Benefits of Gaming

  1. Thanks for being brave and sharing this. I think when someone is willing to talk it gives other people the courage to speak up or ask for help. Who knows how many people are a little better because you spoke up.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Loved this post! I’m so sorry you have to battle those issues, but I’m so glad you found comfort in video games! Personally, I have been using video games to cope with harsh reality since I was five years old. I can relate a video game to almost every difficult issue I’ve faced in my lifetime. I can also say Lightning and the FFXIII trilogy definitely saved me from myself, and that’s why I’m an obsessive Lightning Farron fangirl, haha. But yeah, I certainly wouldn’t be who I am today without video games. πŸ™‚

    Also, congrats to the latest Blogger Blitz champion! πŸ˜€ You and Luna did a terrific job. I wish you all the best!!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I’m so sorry you’re going through that….. Truly. I lost a baby five years ago and the anxiety and depression made me into a different person I didn’t like. Gaming really helped me forget for awhile. Skyward sword I played for a bit, but it was skyrim that really helped me through. People needed me to save them from the World Eater, and i did. I flipping saved Tamriel. Then I went into the wilds of skyrim and helped everyone else. It helped me realize that people do need me, even in the smallest capacity. I have one tiny tattoo on my wrist written in DovahZuul that says “soul fire”. Don’t ever give up, but most importantly, don’t ever give up on helping others. Your blog is pretty new, but if you think it might be an outlet to get through your anxiety and depression, then keep going. If not, then I’ll understand that it’s a burden that you can’t deal with. Stay strong, my gaming sister!

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Thank you. I can’t even imagine what that would have been like. I’m so sorry you had to go through it. My anxiety has been there my entire life but having a baby made it unbearable and I started spiraling into depression. My blog actually helps a lot. Baking/cooking is something I love and sharing it makes me feel happy. Especially when people like it! Thank you for your kind words! It’s nice to connect with you!

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  4. Great post! Video games can be an outlet for many people and all with different reasons. Some of my very best friends to date have come from online video games. Personally, I can’t relate with the anxiety and depression but I know that it has helped a lot of people in that regards. You’re able to let loose and not hold aggression in. That was my outlet. Working full time, full time at school and taking care of my family was draining and taxing. I felt that i didn’t have any “Me” time. That’s where video games have really helped out. Whether I was frustrated or annoyed I could get online and shoot something or compete to win a prize. it sounds bad when you say “Shoot” something but it’s more of a positive way to channel your negative energy. Thank you for this post.

    -Luna πŸ™‚

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for sharing, Luna! I completely understand what you mean when you say shoot! It’s a good outlet for releasing your frustration in what is essentially a non-violent way. I’m glad you’ve found a way to get some ‘you’ time!

      Liked by 1 person

  5. I too have recently (well a year ago now) started getting help for my anxiety and depression. I’ve had symptoms of it for years but had never sought out help until I had a full on breakdown last year. Since then I’ve been somewhat better (it is a daily struggle) but one of the things that helps me get through the bad days is escaping in a video game. Accomplishing something, being in control, etc… are all things they help me do. Glad you are getting help and are getting better. πŸ™‚

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you for sharing your own struggles! It’s nice to know I’m not alone. I finally had to get help when I stopped being able to play with my son when I got home from work without crying. It’s nice to have an outlet to help boost your positivity levels enough to make things better. I’m glad you’ve found a way to do that!

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  6. I can totally relate. First of all, I am sorry to hear about your struggle with anxiety – I have been in a similar place before, but never for that long, or with children. I am glad you are finding help! That being said, games are also for me a way to escape and feel as if I am exerting control over something when most things are out of my control. And as you say, achieving things, even in a game, is a great feeling. I think more people could benefit from hearing that they are not alone when it comes to anxiety – Thanks for writing this!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thank you! I’m glad you’re doing better and that you feel some of the same things I do about gaming! Things are looking up for me, actually. It’s still a struggle but everyday, and in every way, I’m feeling better and better

      Liked by 1 person

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