Electronic gaming is a new and often misunderstood hobby. The idea that someone can enjoy sitting around twiddling their thumbs for hours seems almost alien to a lot of people. And so, when it becomes an issue, it can be a lot harder to recognise than other mental health issues.
But there is a difference between a healthy relationship with gaming and one that is negatively affecting your mental health; if your “hobby” is causing you stress and anger or you’re using it as a coping mechanism to forget about the world around you, then it may be worth thinking about.
For me, gaming became a place where I could escape my degree, my life and my mental health conditions when things were tough. This wasn’t obvious at first because I was living at university where habits and problems can very easily go unnoticed - studying hard in your room and playing 12 hours of video games a day look very similar to a housemate or outsider.
If your “hobby” is causing you stress and anger or you’re using it as a coping mechanism to forget about the world around you, then it may be worth thinking about.
For many people, gaming has a bad image. They may think of a lone person hidden away in their room and decide that this is a hobby that can ultimately only be bad for you. What people don’t realise, however, is that - in my case at least - it isn’t all bad.
I mean yes, there was a point in time when I was playing too much and it was having a negative effect on the rest of my life. However, gaming also allowed me to do all the things we are told to do to deal with depression and anxiety. Gaming allowed me to reach out and talk to people from all over the world in similar situations to myself, many of whom were also were experiencing physical and mental health problems; it allowed me to share my experiences and life with them in a real and meaningful way; it allowed me to find a place where I could take my mind off of negative thoughts and emotions; it allowed me to focus on a simple goal - wins in a game called Fortnite - and set about achieving it. The gaming experience and community became my therapy at the point when I needed it the most.
Gaming allowed me to reach out and talk to people from all over the world in similar situations to myself.
Now I am back to a healthier relationship with gaming. I am an engineering undergrad, a volleyball player and a YoungMinds Activist among over things, but I still find time almost every day for anywhere from ten minutes to a couple of hours to connect with friends, get lost in another world or compete against other gamers. However, now I don’t allow it to dominate my life as it has done in the past as I am successfully dealing with the problems that previously led to excessive gaming.
If you take anything away from this, I hope it is that any excessive behaviour can be bad for either your physical or mental health, but too often gaming is painted in a negative light when it is a place for friendship and shared passions. Gaming is not just an electric-powered fidget spinner, but a fun day out with friends, an awe-inspiring movie and an adrenaline-inducing competitive sport all rolled into one.
If you are struggling with your mental health, check out our find help guide for information and advice on ways to get help.