Gaming – A Biological Cure to Depression

Gaming – A Biological Cure to Depression

Many people often ignore the fun and entertaining aspects of their life due to their work and stressful lifestyles. However, this can indeed have a drastic impact on your mental health and can push you towards depression. Depression and fun are the two opposite sides of a coin.

Early Research:

This point was also highlighted by Brain expert Sutton-Smith who studied children as well as adults extensively in the 1950s and 60s. He was a renowned psychologist who had expertise in studying and understanding the behavior of different individuals. He observed adults as well as children while playing games and he discovered a strong link between playing games and having a high amount of self-confidence, physical energy, and positive emotions. Whenever the individuals played games, they generally exhibited these positive emotions. If you take a look at the bigger picture, you would realize that these positive feelings are exactly the opposite of the negative feelings suffered during the depression. The individuals who are suffering from depression would often complain of lack of energy and curiosity which prevents them from being confident about what they are doing. In turn, their whole attitude turns negative when they are suffering from depression.

As we stated above, the psychologist conducted observations in the 1950s as well as 60s. This was much before the advanced technology of this day was available. Currently, more than 1.23 billion people all over the world play video games. Thus, these emotions are more than likely to be induced in these people while playing these games.

Modern day technology:

This day in order to map the feelings as well as emotions of people, the MRI study is possible. Stanford University has taken the initiative to conduct such studies and has tried to gauge the feelings and emotions of people while playing games. With the help of MRI scans, the university was able to discover that during the play, 2 parts of the brain were most active. The parts of the brain which correspond being activated when you are motivated or focused on your goal are the same ones which are active when you are playing games. These are the same parts of the brain which are associated with memory as well as learning.

If you relate this to the tasks which we undertake in the game, you would find that it makes perfect sense. When you start playing the game, you are often focused on a certain goal which you want to achieve in the game. Also, you constantly learn new gaming skills, whenever you are playing the game. As you progress through the game, you would focus more on the goals like scoring more in the game or clear different stages of the game. Similarly, you would also learn to make and execute different strategies throughout the game which is why the learning part of your brain is more active. This process continues throughout the game. In case, the game becomes monotonous by not challenging our learning skills or goal achieving skills, we lose interest in the game.

This is one of the main reasons why we keep on playing the game in spite of failing in the same levels again and again. Many individuals, who have not played games before, find this behavior pretty odd. They find this behavior even illogical sometimes. This behavior however, is initiated by the focus of the brain to achieve a certain goal through learning.

Through extensive research, it has been concluded that the same 2 regions of the brain which are stimulated during gaming (they are called reward pathways and hippocampus) are the parts which often shrink or at least remain under-stimulated when the individual is in depression.

This has helped researchers prove biologically, that video game play is the exact opposite of depression neurologically.

The lack of stimulation of the reward pathways, do not let the individual realize the goals which can be achieved which develops a negative mindset in them. A negative mind can never be motivated. This lack of stimulation or shrinking of the hippocampus makes it difficult for the individuals to learn new skills which are crucial to success. Thus, the task of focusing or learning new skills becomes more difficult when the individual is under depression.

Playing video games and Depression are inversely proportional:
Numerous studies over the years have concluded that if the individual plays video games for at least 20 hours per week, the chances of suffering from depression reduce significantly. These days many psychologists are even experimenting with using video games to reduce the chronic effects of depression on individuals. Patients have often accepted to get a relief from depression while playing video games.

Self-medicating with video games is not the solution:

Psychologists, however, are quick to point out that self-medicating oneself with video games is not the right solution. This can lead to the individual getting an excuse to run away from day to day problems. Also, it can have a negative impact on the individual. People who play games excessively can suffer from social isolation or anxiety. That is why video games can only work as a solution in moderation. It is important to monitor the implementation of the solution in order to make sure that it is being done the right way.

According to a report, at least 41% of the players admitted that they actively play video games in order to get away from the tensions or problems of daily life. The problem is that even when most of the people are playing games on a moderate basis, parents, as well as teachers, often discourage them from playing games. They often do not realize that video games provide these individuals with a way to relax.

The only thing which needs to be done in order to have a positive outcome from playing the games is to have a certain positive goal in mind when the individual starts to play the game. After that, as long as they are able to stick to the prescribed time limit, playing video games would have a positive outcome. A goal can be as simple as changing the mood or trying to overcome a failure by achieving something in the game.

When game playing is associated with a certain goal, researchers have concluded that it can help induce a positive attitude among individuals which can help them achieve their goals in life as well. This is because the same resilience gets built into these individuals in real life as well which encourages them to learn and achieve their goals.

Instead of just changing the games which you are playing, it is a better idea to just associate a goal with the game which would help you in getting the above-mentioned benefits by playing video games.

Drawing the line:

If one of your loved ones is an avid gamer, it is a good idea to have a conversation with them regarding how games have a positive impact on their life. This would induce a positive change in your relationship with them as you would explore their likings for the game rather than discouraging them to play the game.

Some of the questions which you can ask them are:

• How is the game?
• What is the best part about the game?
• Are the skills of the game helping them in real life?

These questions would also help you spark new thoughts in them regarding playing games. The most pertinent question which you can ask them is can I play the game with you?

Thus, instead of just thinking that games are a waste of time, you have to understand that it has been scientifically proven that games are helpful in treating depression to a certain extent. The next time around, you meet an avid gamer, thinking that they are wasting their time; it would be a good idea to encourage them. For all you might know, they might be trying to induce some positivism in their life with the help of games.