Video Games Help With Conditions Such as Depression
Video games are typically charged with corrupting our youth, adversely affecting school performance and breeding sociopathic monsters who go Grand Theft Auto on the real world. These beliefs are somewhat exaggerated, and a new study shows that some video games can actually have beneficial effects for patients with a variety of physical and mental health conditions. Depression and autism were amongst the psychological conditions the researchers from the University of Utah identified as being helped by a new form of video game. This could mean that in future, people suffering from depression or autism may be instructed to play an Xbox, Playstation or Wii title alongside their counselling as part of treatment.
It’s important to note that the video games discussed in this study are part of a new genre of games specifically designed for their therapeutic benefits. Ordinary games, whilst increasing levels of the reward chemical dopamine in the brain, do not possess the same therapeutic value. However, the motivation some people have to play games indicates that they produce some objectively identifiable effect on the individuals’ brains. This is probably related to the dopamine increase, and understanding this mechanism means that games can be specifically designed to help people undergoing therapy in either a psychological or physical setting.
Patients suffering from physical conditions such as cancer, diabetes, Parkinson’s and asthma could benefit from the therapeutic games, along with psychological conditions such as depression. Those with physical conditions often require intensive physical therapy, which can put strains on their mental well-being and lead to reduced resilience and empowerment. This draining effect of therapy adversely influences the patients’ motivation, which therefore slows their treatment outcome. By empowering the individuals, the games could improve their attitude towards counselling or physical therapy and therefore lead to better patient outcomes.
Dr. Carol Bruggers, a lead physician on the study, said that “a growing number of published studies show promise in effecting specific health-related behavioural changes and self-management of obesity, neurological disorders, cancer or asthma.” They looked at the data available on exercise-promoting therapeutic games and more ordinary-style games which didn’t involve physical exertion, and found generally positive results. Experts believe that as more companies start to make therapeutic video games, they will be increasingly used for both physical and mental health conditions. Therapists could one day suggest a particular video game for depression patients to compliment and improve their interaction with the psychological counselling they’re receiving.
The researchers suggest areas for further studies which could help designers to more efficiently target of these games in terms of story, music, and recommended play-time for the maximum therapeutic benefits. If the field continues to advance, the medical community is expected to embrace the new form of therapy with open arms because of the growing body of research supporting their effectiveness. Further research could lead to a revolution in terms of improving patient motivations, overall happiness and treatment outcomes.
The psychotherapy required for patients suffering from conditions like depression or autism won’t change, but the games could prove to be an indispensible ally in maximising the therapeutic benefits. If you or your loved one is suffering from depression or any other psychological condition, getting help is absolutely essential. A counsellor can also help anybody going though demanding physical therapy improve their motivation and maintain a positive mood. If you think you or your loved one could benefit from counselling, we can help you determine the severity of the issue and get the treatment you need. Drop in to our Luton offices or contact us by telephone today for some professional, friendly and confidential advice!