Why People with Social Anxiety Love Playing Video Games
Bored at home because you’re socially awkward or uncomfortable around other people? That’s pretty common these days, and it’s not just because of COVID-19. More than 200,000 people in the United States alone suffer from social anxiety and the symptoms thereof. But modern technology has provided a fun solution that doesn’t require intense psychotherapy.
In fact, that’s why so many people with the disorder love playing video games in the first place.
What is social anxiety and what are the symptoms?
It’s important to understand what social anxiety is so you can recognize the symptoms and create effective coping strategies. This disorder is considered chronic, by the way, which means it lasts for a long time and/or presents frequently despite your best efforts. At any time, it can cause irrational anxiousness and self-consciousness, especially in social situations and even in one-on-one settings.
For people with this type of anxiety, everyday interactions with other people are extremely difficult. The simple act of talking to another person can produce fear, doubt, paranoia, or even unwarranted embarrassment. Those suffering usually report being concerned about humiliation or offending someone else. As such, the condition can be debilitating for those experiencing it without proper coping mechanisms.
Are video games a treatment for social anxiety?
Right now, the best treatment options are talk therapy, prescription medication, and homeopathic remedies. However, some experts have been experimenting with the idea that video games may help with certain mental illnesses such as depression, anxiety, and bipolar disorder. Their intrigue began when they noticed how many patients were using games as an escape from reality.
Interestingly, virtual realities generally mimic real life and often involve interactions with other players. It’s like a soft release – a form of therapy that’s self-lead and completely customizable. So, if you want to cope with or overcome the disorder without incessant therapies or medications, you might consider playing video games every once in a while.
NOTE: If you play video games too much or use them as an alternative to getting meaningful treatment, you may experience the opposite effect or even become addicted to the dopamine spikes.
How do video games help people with social anxiety disorder?
Feeling nervous, paranoid, or embarrassed in social situations can be exhausting, not to mention damaging to any progress you’ve already made in therapy or at home. Meanwhile, forcing yourself to go out in public or talk to other people can lead to major mistakes and subsequent breakdowns. Despite the stigmas associated with mental illness, you don’t have to pretend like nothing is wrong.
Instead, look for ways to feel more comfortable in your own skin while you seek therapy for your condition. Start by learning tactics for talking to people and then progress at your own pace. Utilize the interactive gaming features on your console and practice what you’ve been taught while speaking to other gamers who, by the way, might have social anxiety as well.
In fact, here’s why so many people with the disorder love playing video games to cope or get better:
#1. No Direct Social Interactions
When you play videos and talk to other people over the internet, you can enjoy controlled socialization without having to worry about making direct eye contact or using appropriate body language. That, in turn, removes the stress of seeming personable and allows you to express yourself more freely.
#2. Easier to Walk Away
During a face-to-face conversation, you can’t exactly unplug or walk away when things get tense. But within the virtual world you can step away if your anxiety gets too intense or simply avoid the interactions altogether because they don’t directly affect your everyday existence.
#3. Groups Based on Shared Interests
For many people, a major part of being socially uncomfortable is feeling unable to relate to others. While playing interactive video games, however, you get to pick your playmates. And while some games may require you to play with random opponents, you’re all interested in the same things already.
#4. Clout Among Other Players
You might not be very successful or popular in real life, but you could become a legend in the gaming realm if you’re good enough. Practice makes perfect and people appreciate teammates who can navigate the game, so get out there and enjoy a few pats on the back for your hard work.
#5. Boosted Self-Confidence
When you’re constantly surrounded by people who appreciate and respect your contributions and achievements, it’s much easier to carry that confidence into real world scenarios. You find out how much pressure you can perform under and then use that knowledge to reach your personal goals.
NOTE: If you experience bullying or intimidating online while playing games, stop participating in that group or reach out to customer service for some help.
People with anxiousness is social situations don’t always want to be left alone. They’re usually frustrated by their inability to conform to society’s behavioral norms and can become reclusive if the right coping strategies and/or therapies aren’t used. So, don’t just ignore your apprehension or enable it with isolation. Get your feet wet with interactive video games and let the rest take care of itself.
Marie Miguel has been a writing and research expert for nearly a decade, covering a variety of health- related topics. Currently, she is contributing to the expansion and growth of a free online mental health resource with Mind-Diagnostics.org. With an interest and dedication to addressing stigmas associated with mental health, she continues to specifically target subjects related to anxiety and depression.