We live in unprecedented times, sitting in front of your screens for multiple hours a day. For some, they are restricted with gatherings, or under curfew, while others are just lacking any sort of social life. Either way, for many, isolation means a continual mental health struggle.
In fact, it is sadly reported that over 16 million Americans have had at least one depressive episode in the last twelve months. Anxiety disorders are also very prevalent in the population, affecting 40 million adults in the United States.
Often, researchers and academics warn of the potential dangers of gaming and virtual worlds. They can be addictive, and often a waste of productive time. But what if I told you that these games and worlds can have a bunch of great beneficial impacts on mental health?
VR to fight mental health issues
And with the growing interest in VR, headsets can totally immerse you in your virtual worlds, the possibilities in the treatment of depression, anxiety, phobias, and a bunch of different issues appear very real. Can you imagine being fully immersed in this virtual world, visiting virtual art exhibits, virtual gardens, and maybe even virtual animals?
When a person is depressed, they tend to withdraw from social life and activities. When trying to treat depression, encouraging the person receiving treatment to get out and meet people is important. VR has been vilified as a solitary and isolating technology, but many possibilities for meaningful social gatherings and activities do exist in VR.
Scientific data tends to agree
In this article, published in 2017 by Philip L. et al., they discuss how specific CBT techniques can be made into VR experiences, including psychoeducation, behavioral activation, cognitive restructuring, and social skills training. They also discuss how VR-unique experiences, such as alternative embodiment and virtual pet interactions, can be made therapeutic.
And for the younger generations, it makes even more sense to do so. Because they are already the biggest users of these technologies. And with a world like Decentraland, where LAND owners can publish any scenes they like, the possibilities can be very varied. But just the social interaction, being able to talk and interact with strangers through the virtual world, can be helpful for many.
The future is now, and it’s big
Who knows, in the future, you might be able to get online mental health counseling, right in the game. You could see some scenes, being created, to fight fears and phobias, all with the help of a VR headset.
If you are interested in the beneficial effects gaming can bring on mental health, I suggest that you read this book by Pete Etchells: Lost in a Good Game: Why we play video games and what they can do for us.
And even scientists and doctors now agree. Virtual reality is not just for gamers anymore. It is a new type of mental health treatment that can make things easier when times are hard.