Why Do Video Games Cause Depression

Patrick Lawrence

I know I haven't been the biggest gamer in my family (the one brother who played Halo religiously will probably kill me for this post) so I'm not the best source for the issue.

But I am going to give my understanding and believe that what I say is largely correct.

Before we get into the causation of games causing depression, we have to first talk about depression itself. To many, depression is a very controversial topic, and it's easy to get lost in the cultural debate.

With it being such a controversial topic, it makes people shy away from discussing it. Since video games can't change minds, I'm going to take a different approach.

Dealing with grief

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The base of this issue has to do with depression. Depression happens when you're unable to cope with life and make the necessary changes.

Losing a loved one is one thing, but when you lose your ability to cope with what life throws at you, you suffer from depression.

Games cause depression in several ways:

Loss of identity

Depression can arise when you are forced to confront an identity crisis. Video games give you a new identity to replace the old one.

It's a way for the video game designer to make you feel good about the fact that you're replacing your old life with a new one.

Medication side effects

Medications that are used to treat depression often have negative side effects. The depression medications can increase blood pressure and sometimes make the patient feel worse.

The risk of the side effect is high enough that it may be reasonable for an individual to turn down the medication, especially if their depression can't be treated medically.

Emotional responses

In many cases, the video game will draw you in and put you in a situation that will make you want to press on.

This reaction is similar to a person whose love one is going to die. In the case of the loved one going to die, the person wants to feel attached and to prevent the person from leaving.

In the case of the video game, the player wants to overcome the adversity and make it to the end.

The moment that player makes it to the end, the player feels some sense of achievement and power, so they may feel worse about their loss if they lose the game.

Body image

The entire video game industry and culture in general place a large emphasis on youth and beauty.

The product that is being sold is the product of youth and beauty, so all the video games look the same.

All the characters are skinny, mostly white, and mostly blond. Some people develop body image issues after they grow out of their adolescent years, so they look at the characters and feel bad about themselves.

Again, games are a way for video game creators to make you feel good about yourself, so this reaction is understandable.

Video games and depression

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There are two ways that video games cause depression:

1. General psychological factors

These factors are easily shown in regards to players. A video game has been shown to reduce the chances that a young child will develop depression by 80%.

This is because video games allow a young child to create self-identity that is based on the game world.

In short, the video game is the world to a child. The child plays and thinks like the character.

Video games also cause depression because the child gets addicted to video games.

The idea of addiction causes a psychological issue and changes the way the child thinks about life.

2. Emotional responses

In the end, it's about the emotional response. After the video game has been released, there is always some period of time when the game can be replayed.

This makes it possible to experience the same emotions that the player felt at the time that they played the game.

This response is similar to a person having a loved one die and trying to recreate the experience in the video game to fill the void.

How to help someone who is depressed

Two boy and girl holding game controllers

In cases of depression, it is possible to help a person, even if they are not willing to see a therapist.

The following tips help guide someone who is depressed.

Try to figure out what's wrong with the person first.

This is a bit of a challenge because some people are not aware that they are depressed until they have already gone through the proper stages of grief.

Some people may even begin to blame themselves for the depression. You should get the information and create a plan for the person that best matches their needs.

If the person doesn't want to seek professional help, then you will need to create a plan that works with the individual.

Try to be patient with the person and ask them what they need from you.

There are a few things that you can do to make this process easier:

  • Encourage the person to seek out professional help
  • Allow the person to take a break from all video games
  • Ask the person to talk about their feelings
  • Don't force the person to go to a therapist
  • Allow the person to remain in their comfort zone

This list is far from comprehensive, but it gives you an idea of how you can help a person who is depressed.

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