How viral game helps youth cope with mental health issues, social anxiety

While catching Pokemon and heading to Pokestops may sound trivial, doctors say Pokemon Go could be helping young adults deal with mental health issues from depression to social anxiety and withdrawal.

By playing, those grappling with mental health concerns are heading outdoors, engaging with their peers who are sharing a common ground and a sense of community while keeping some semblance of familiarity and comfort through the game, experts say.

For someone who has serious depression, we know that getting exercise, walking around, getting exposure to the sun helps to counteract the physiological effects of depression.

Pokemon Go is a virtual reality game that’s captivated smartphone users around the world since its release earlier this month. It was launched in Canada on Monday.

Using an avatar, Pokemon trainers appear on a digital map, mirroring your movements as tracked by your phone.

By walking around your neighbourhood, you’ll come across Pokemon to capture, PokeStops to load up on equipment, and PokeGyms where you can battle your Pokemon with peers.

In latest research, scientists formed three categories of socially withdrawn people:

  • Shy: When a person wants to be social but is held back by fear
  • Unsocial: When a person has no problem being social but prefers to be alone
  • Avoidant: When a person does everything they can to avoid social interaction

Scientists concern is that those who are socially withdrawn, especially in the avoidant group, may be relying too heavily on media, such as video games instead of honing their social skills.

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