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Can Video Games Help With Anxiety?

This article was developed via a partnership with BetterHelp.

Anxiety is both a common emotion and a mental health condition experienced worldwide. Feelings of anxiety are typically painful but evolved as a warning sensation to indicate nearby danger. However, the stressors and complexities of the modern world have created many fearful situations that cause our bodies to react as though we are in danger even when we aren’t. Therefore, many people live with frequent or consistent anxiety, which can significantly affect their health.

As a result, many people seek activities and treatments that will ease the pain and symptoms of their anxiety. Video games have often been used as an escape and temporary relief from painful emotions. But can they help anxiety, and are they a long-term solution? Read on to learn more about anxiety and how playing video games can help.

What Does Anxiety Feel Like?

Anxiety is an intense feeling of worry, fear, or dread. It can be an intense sensation either experienced occasionally or when encountering particular stressors. It can also be a more chronic or persistent sensation that can affect one’s quality of life. Those who experience anxiety often or so intensely that it affects their day-to-day lives often develop anxiety disorders such as generalized anxiety disorder and social anxiety disorder.

Though the causes of anxiety and anxiety disorders vary greatly, the symptoms of each type of anxiety are usually pretty similar to each other. The most common symptoms of anxiety include:

  • Feelings of fear, panic, danger, or doom
  • Increased heart rate
  • Problems sleeping
  • Restlessness
  • Shortness of breath
  • Chest tightness
  • Heart palpitations
  • Tense muscles
  • Hyperventilation
  • Dizziness
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Ruminating thoughts
  • Nausea
  • Sweating
  • Trembling
  • Fatigue
  • Feeling weak
  • Unable to control the worrying thoughts


Can Video Games Help?

Yes, there are some instances where video games can help with anxiety. Video games offer a temporary distraction that can redirect one’s focus and encourage the body and mind to calm down. People who are experiencing a particularly stressful or anxious day or situation often feel much better after playing an enjoyable or relaxing video game.

However, video games only help when played occasionally. Excessive gaming often worsens mental health, as it is used more as an escape than a temporary treatment or distraction. This is because the nature of gaming may encourage someone to avoid the real world and, consequently, the things that are causing them anxiety. The person may be tempted to keep gaming to avoid their stressors, which only worsens the anxiety because they are not treating it or finding healthier ways to deal with the triggering situation. They are only running away from their anxiety, which means the emotion will remain persistent.

So if you had a stressful or anxious day, playing a game for a few hours isn’t a problem. But if you experience anxiety often, live with an anxiety disorder, or notice that your symptoms are worsening, then video games are not the answer. You may need to seek the help of a mental health professional for other treatment options.

Video Games that Help with Anxiety

Cozy games are considered good for relaxation and may help with anxiety. Some games might include

  1. Animal Crossing: New Horizons
    Animal Crossing: New Horizons is a relaxing and enjoyable game where players can create their own island paradise, go fishing, catch bugs, and interact with friendly animal characters. The game has no time limit or pressure, and it provides a calming environment that can help reduce anxiety and stress.
  2. Minecraft
    Minecraft is an open-world game where players can build and explore virtual worlds. It can be a creative outlet for people with anxiety, allowing them to create whatever they want without the fear of failure or judgement. The game’s peaceful mode also offers a stress-free experience.
  3. Stardew Valley
    Stardew Valley is a farming simulator game that lets players escape the pressures of modern life and live a simple, peaceful life on a farm. The game offers various activities like farming, fishing, and mining, and it has a relaxing soundtrack that can help soothe anxious thoughts.
  4. Flower
    Flower is an award-winning indie game that provides a unique, meditative experience. Players control the wind and guide a flower petal through various environments, collecting other petals and creating colourful landscapes. The game has a calming soundtrack and beautiful visuals that can help reduce anxiety and promote relaxation.
  5. Journey
    Journey is another indie game that offers a peaceful and immersive experience. Players control a mysterious robed figure traveling through a vast, beautiful desert, and they can meet other players along the way. The game has a minimalist design, a soothing soundtrack, and no dialogue, allowing players to relax and enjoy the journey.
  6. Monument Valley
    Monument Valley is a puzzle game that provides a visually stunning experience. Players control a character navigating through a series of surreal and impossible monuments, and they must solve puzzles to progress. The game has a calming atmosphere and beautiful design that can help reduce anxiety and promote focus.

All of these cozy video games can be helpful for reducing anxiety and promoting relaxation, as they offer a low-pressure, calming environment with minimal stress and enjoyable gameplay.

Other Options To Treat Anxiety

Though video games may provide a temporary emotional boost and ease your anxiety, you should adopt healthier strategies to improve your mental health. As with many mental health conditions, anxiety is best treated by talking to a professional, taking medication, or just taking better care of yourself. Read on to learn more about how these strategies can help you.

  • Therapy: Talking to a therapist is the best way to manage any feelings of anxiety. A therapist can help you address the root of your anxiety and show you how to overcome your anxious thoughts and replace them with calming and positive ones. They can also provide tips on how to navigate the situations that create your anxiety, as well as how to develop a more calm lifestyle and environment.
  • Medication: If your anxiety is difficult to treat with therapy or self-care, a psychiatrist may prescribe medication. Medication may ease feelings of anxiety and reduce anxious thoughts if these cannot be managed on your own.
  • Mindfulness: Mindfulness and meditation can both do wonders for anxiety. They encourage being in the present moment, learning to notice your anxious thoughts, and observing them without judgment. Mindfulness is also a calming activity and, therefore, may encourage your brain to relax and reduce your anxious thoughts.
  • Self-care: Many mental health conditions are caused or worsened by an unhealthy lifestyle. Poor sleep, diet, and lack of exercise can encourage thoughts of depression and anxiety. Therefore, taking care of yourself by sleeping well, eating healthy, and exercising frequently may calm your mind and reduce your anxiety.

Final Thoughts On Anxiety

Do video games help with anxiety?

When experiencing anxiety, it can be tempting to seek activities, such as video games, that numb or distract you from the pain. And though video games may provide temporary relief or distraction, the truth is that they do not serve as a good treatment for persistent anxiety. If you live with anxiety, you should discuss the condition with a mental health professional. If you wish to learn more about anxiety and how to treat it, you can find more resources at the link below:


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