A new fantasy game created in New Zealand has created an interesting twist on video games use for teenagers with depression. While video game use is often tied to increasing depression, researches in New Zealand have recently developed a SPARX videogame program. The acronym stands for “smart, positive, active, realistic and x-factor thoughts,” strategies designed to fight depression by helping its participants better understand the link between thoughts and depression.
The GNATs are Gloomy Negative Automatic Thoughts, which include such thoughts as “I’m ugly”, “No one will ever love me”, “No one cares for me”. They are deeply tied to mental rumination causing psychic pain, interrupted sleep, bad concentration and poor performance across varies scopes of daily life.
When people with depression stop buying into ideas like “Everyone hates me” or “I’m a loser” and can recognize that these “GNATs” are not statements of fact about reality, but simply thoughts twisted by depression, it can stop the cycle of rumination that sustains the disease.
It takes a CBT approach to beating depression and tries it instill the belief that negative thoughts about oneself need to be changed. They don’t reflect reality but painful emotions skewing reality for the person at that time. The game has combined this education with a multi-level fantasy environment.
It allows teenagers to engage in non-traditional treatments, especially if shame and embarrassment prohibits the person from engaging in therapy. Video game therapy can bring a healing pathway via psycho-education and edutainment.
It also raises interesting questions about the validity and future of face-to face-therapy sessions. Obviously there will always need to be a face to face model of therapy when it comes to depression. However, sometimes people are unable or unwilling to engage in the treatment; cost excludes enormous amounts of people from regular psychological counselling especially when those most in need often experience financial hardship.
Although it’s clear that having strong relationships is critical to good mental health — and computerized treatments likely won’t prove to be adequate for depression if they don’t help people develop and maintain them — the current research suggests that onscreen treatment could bring relief to many teens, without the risks or stigma of antidepressant drugs or weekly therapy visits.
This is a fascinating new development in the treatment for depression for teenagers. If so many people are learning, sharing interacting and gaming within these environments then why not take cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) into this environment to educate and help teenagers understand and beat depression.
References and further reading
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