Pokémon Go Improving Mental Health? What about Addiction?by Natasha Tracy - August 8th, 2016
There have been widespread reports the Pokémon Go phenomenon is helping peoples’ mental health. Specifically, because Pokémon Go is getting people outside and many of them are interacting with others, people are claiming that it is helping depression and anxiety disorders in real life. But can people become addicted to Pokémon Go?
Users of Pokémon Go Claim Improvements in Mental Health
Twitter has been awash in examples of Pokémon Go improving individuals’ mental health.
For example, @CptNaomi on July 10th said,
"#PokemonGO is gunna cure my social anxiety. Everyone has been so nice. People are not as scary as originally perceived. "
And @gleefullyhello said, also on July 10th,
"#PokemonGo has already been a better treatment for my depression than anything my doctor prescribed or therapist recommended. "
Psychologist John Grohol of PsychCentral echoes these claims saying,
"The developers behind Pokemon Go didn’t mean to create a mental health gaming app. But they’ve done so, and the effects seem to be largely positive."
But Can Mental Health Get Worse Because of Pokémon Go?
While many people are claiming that Pokémon Go is helping their mental health, is it possible that it could actually harm the mental health of some people?
Possibly, as it related to Pokémon Go addiction.
While many people are enjoying “catching them all," there are many people who are, literally, not even stopping to eat and are sacrificing sleep in order to play more and more of the game. While this could be just a phase and fun for a short period of time, over time, addiction is a real concern.
Part of this concern is actually a worsening of mental health when Pokémon Go is not available for play either because the game is offline or because the person cannot access it for another reason. Tweets are already going out about depression due to lack of access.
And this is a definite sign of addiction. While the exact definition for video game addiction is not agreed upon by all medical professionals and video game addiction is not recognized by the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Illnesses, Fifth Edition (the manual that defines all mental illnesses), the core features of video game addiction are the following:
• Withdrawal symptoms when not able to play video games
• A loss of control over how much time is spent on video games
• Conflict in personal relationships and school or work commitments arising from video game usage
Video game addiction has even been related to depression.
In the case of adolescents, a major market Pokémon Go, video game addiction is associated with depression, lower academic achievement and conduct problems.
However, it should be noted that video game addiction is not necessarily related to the amount of time spent on game play but, rather, on the above listed systems. What seems to be clear is that those who are addicted to video games experience problems elsewhere in their lives.
How to Harness the Positive Mental Health Effects and Avoid Pokémon Go Addiction
If you’re finding mental health benefits to Pokémon Go, there is no reason that you should stop playing. Limiting your time playing to reasonable amounts, though, may be a good idea.
And if you do see the signs of video game addiction occurring, take steps to stop that addiction before it starts.
According to Ken Seeley, a board certified interventionist, you can do this by:
1. Finding a health way to deal with stress – find ways to deal with stress outside of playing Pokémon Go or another video game.
2. Seeking counseling if you need it – if you see those signs of Pokémon Go addiction happening, seek out help to find out why.
3. Maintaining a lifestyle that makes you happy – make sure there are things you do outside of Pokémon Go that make you happy.
4. Having things in your life you care deeply about – make sure you care about things outside of a video game.
5. Being aware of familial history of addiction – while we don’t know if video game addiction is hereditary, addiction, in general, seems to be; so if addiction exists in your family, watch for the signs of Pokémon Go addiction.
There’s no reason why Pokémon Go can’t be used to make your mental health better, you just want to make sure that Pokémon Go doesn’t, inadvertently, make your mental health worse.
MacDonald, Fiona, Science Alert, Pokémon Go is reportedly helping people with their depression. Retrieved July 30, 2016.
Seeley, 5 Steps to Stop Drug Addiction Before it Starts. Retrieved August 1, 2016.
Natasha Tracey is a professional writer and author for Bipolar Burble. She currently worked as a freelancer for Kingsblog.
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