Can gamers use games to fight depression?

This blog answers: Can gamers use games to fight depression? What is the difference between commercial video games and therapy games? What is the difference between commercial video games and therapy games? What is depression? What are the symptoms of depression? What are the treatment options for depression?

Can gamers use games to fight depression?

According to the Science Foundation, Ireland Research Center for software video games can help individuals fight their depression and other mental health concerns. The studies provided a shred of evidence indicating that video games helped to decrease the symptoms of depression such as a decrease in interest and pleasure in activities that they prior enjoyed.

Video games such as “Minecraft” and “Animal Crossing” also help individuals to improve their social communication and reduce their sense of loneliness improving their overall mental health concerns. This is mainly because it gives them a sense of belonging to a community of people whom they think they are like and who hold similar values and goals.

Apart from reducing symptoms of depression and anxiety individuals playing video games also feel a sense of enhancement in their mood. Another supporting study indicated that teenagers who played “Mario Kart” showed better regulation of their emotions than their peers who were not involved in the game.

What does research tell about gaming and its effect on mental health?

In 2017, a proof-of-concept study was carried out to assess the effect of playing games on people suffering from depression. In this study, adults aged 60 and over were allowed to play video games. Participants were expected to fix problem-solving barriers in the games. It was known as Project EVO

Even as EVO was not specifically intended to target depressive symptoms, researchers hypothesized that there might be positive benefits on these symptoms by improving cognitive difficulties with effective therapy, and results have been promising, according to the researchers at the University of California, San Francisco. Within four weeks of therapy, there was a substantial improvement in emotions and focus longevity among the seniors.

Although these trials need not prove that gaming cures depression, they do provide us with advanced analytics that we can use to broaden studies in the relevant area. The study was published in the journal Depression and Anxiety, 

SPARX is another example of a game designed specifically to treat depression and anxiety. According to studies, the game had almost the same rate of success as counseling for their sample population, which consisted of children aged 15 and higher.


What is the difference between commercial video games and therapy games?

Researchers have found that commercial video games that are designed for the enhancement of mood and as a source of entertainment help with individuals’ mental health conditions whereas certain brain games are designed for particular therapeutic effects.

These therapeutic games do not cover a fun element like the other commercial games rather they focus on providing a therapeutic effect on an individual through a guided process.

Apart from this, a major difference between commercial games and therapeutic games is that there is a sense of motivation individuals get while playing commercial video games whereas in therapeutic games it seems more like forced homework.

Both commercial video games and therapy games eventually lead to an enhancement of mood and better mental well-being gradually. 

However commercial games do the work by the fun that individuals experience while playing the game whereas therapeutic games are more direct towards targeting one mental health concerns

What is depression?

Depression is one of the most common serious mental health conditions that negatively impact how an individual feels and thinks.

Depression is associated with feelings of sadness, a loss of interest in daily activities, and drastic changes in the energy level and the daily routines of an individual.

Depression in itself can lead to other physical and emotional problems which can be detrimental to a person’s functioning.

The symptoms of depression can vary from individual to individual from mild to severe depending on various factors.

Studies indicate that depression affects about 15% of adults every year and one in every six people experience depression at some time in their life.

Although depression can occur at any age it is more common among teenagers and early adults. Research indicates that women are more vulnerable to depression than men.

What are the symptoms of depression?

The characteristic symptoms of depression are:

  • Feelings of sadness or depressed mood
  • Loss of interest in activities enjoyed in the past
  • Changes in appetite leading to weight gain or weight loss
  • Changes in sleep patterns with very little sleep or long hours of sleep
  • Decrease in the level of energy
  • Feelings of worthlessness
  • Feeling guilty
  • Difficulty thinking and concentrating
  • In severe cases thoughts of death or suicide

Symptoms of depression must last up to two weeks and cause significant impairment in an individual’s daily functioning to meet the diagnosis of depression.

What are the treatment options for depression?

Depression though widespread is one of the most treatable mental illnesses. About 90% of people with depression respond well to treatment.

Some possible treatment options for depression are


Antidepressants are very commonly prescribed by doctors to individuals with depression. These medications are not sedatives or tranquilizers. They generally do not have any stimulating effects on people who do not experience depression.

Antidepressants usually show their effects within a few weeks. However, in cases where patients do not see any improvement after several weeks, they can alter their doses based on the suggestions provided by their health care practitioners.


Psychotherapy is also called talk therapy. It is used as a single mode of treatment for mild depression or for moderate to severe depression along with antidepressants.

Psychotherapy might involve the individual alone or other related individuals for instance the family of the concerned person.

Depending on the severity of depression psychotherapy might take a few weeks or much longer for significant improvement

Cognitive-behavioral therapy

Cognitive-behavioral therapy is a form of psychotherapy where the therapist actively focuses on problem-solving. This is done by helping individuals replace their negative thoughts with more positive ones.

Electroconvulsive therapy

Electroconvulsive therapy is a treatment model that is commonly used for patients with severe and major depression who usually do not respond to other lines of treatment.

It involves brief electrical stimulation of the brain while the patient is under anesthesia.

Patients receive electroconvulsive therapy two or three times a week for a total of 6 to 12 sessions.

Self-help and coping strategies

Apart from therapy and medicine individuals can also carry out some self-help coping strategies such as carrying out regular exercises, getting sufficient sleep, indulging in pleasurable activities, maintaining a healthy diet, and avoiding alcohol to reduce their symptoms of depression


Video games and other forms of games can do the magic and help individuals enhancing their mood and also their mental health well-being over time however individuals must not mistake this for a replacement for actual therapy and medication for depression.

Frequently asked questions: Can games help to fight depression?

Can video games fight depression?

Recent studies indicate that video games help to reduce the symptoms of depression and also enhance individuals’ moods. They help individuals to feel connected and give them a sense of achievement.

Does gaming lead to depression?

There is no direct association between depression and video games in the relevant field of studies and research.

Are gamers more depressed?

Research indicates that individuals who play games excessively report 15% more stress and anxiety than those who play a balanced amount of games.

Does gaming make depression worse?

Some studies indicate that individuals who play games excessively can experience heightened levels of depression symptoms.

Does gaming make individuals happier?

Research indicates that simple games that give quick results such as “Angry Birds” help individual feels happier and more relaxed which helps to reduce their anxiety and stress.


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