Can Pokemon Go Relieve Depression?

Pokemon Go is the revolutionary new app that is taking video games to the streets and the…psychotherapist’s office? Just a little over a month after the game’s release a torrent of thankful outcries have come from many social media accounts.

“#PokemonGO has changed me so much for the better in only a week. Dealing with [borderline personality disorder], depression, and anxiety, it has helped me get out of the house,” says one Pokemaster. And others suffering from anxiety and depression also claim that the game—with it’s delightful characters—has truly lured them outside and towards interactions with other Pokemasters. Pokemon Go players with mental illness swear by the game’s effect—with some noting it helps them more than therapy.

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Video games have previously been considered volatile for many of the 43.8 million adult Americans that suffer from mental illness. According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, video games attract more creative and educated individuals, which is the same group most prone to anxiety and depression.

Ramping Up Motivation

Dr. John Grohol, an expert on technology’s impact on the human psyche, explains that for this group of people, “The challenge has always been that their motivation level is nonexistent. So, this game makes them want to go out and get some fresh air, or even take a shower, which can be a very difficult thing to even comprehend, much less do.”
Pokemon Go encourages people to get outside and walk to find and catch more Pokemon characters. The incentive and the physical exercise does wonders for those who would otherwise find their mental illness debilitating to the point that it’s hard, even unthinkable, for them to leave their homes.

“The research is really, really clear on this—the more you exercise, the more it helps decrease feelings of depression,” Dr. Grohol says. “It actually works as an anti-depressant and it has a really strong effect. It’s probably one of the most beneficial things a person with depression can do, especially if they’re not accessing other types of treatments such as psychotherapy or medication.”

Taking Steps Toward Self Care

The exercise is simply good for the body as well. While the game is by no means a cure for chronic mental illness, it is certainly a step toward healthier living and positive self-care. The otherwise introverted are finding it easier to talk to fellow players searching for Pokemon on the street, in parks, and stores. It’s become a great motivator to go out for walks with friends and explore new places. Besides inspiring new lifestyle trends, the vastly successful Pokemon Go is a pioneer of virtual reality. We all knew this new game was where technology was headed, but Pokemon has actually taken the first step into a virtual world that extends beyond the home—with surprising unforeseen and unexpected benefits.

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