Since Pokémon Go was released last week, it has totally taken over our lives. People everywhere are finding new places in their town, walking around and gazing deeply into their devices, or using words like, “pokéballs,” “gyms,” “Squirtle” and “PokéStops.”
The free-to-play, location-based, mobile game brings a virtual reality to every player. And as it turns out, the game might also bring unexpected benefits to those who suffer from mental health conditions. As a result of playing the game, users have taken to social media to report a surprising improvement in their depression and anxiety.
The Pokémon Go app has now passed the number of users on both Tinder and Twitter, and with so many people joining the craze, it’s motivating users to get up and get out of the house. Doing so is usually a daily struggle for many who suffer from depression or anxiety. But with the help of device’s GPS compatibilities, the game allows players to capture, battle and train virtual characters who appear throughout the real world.
Because the game has only been out for a week, scientists and doctors have not yet been able to study the effects or results the app is actually having on people. Studies have often shown that mental health is improved when people are out and moving around. But historically, it’s been challenging to motivate people with mental health conditions to leave their house or exercise.
For some who suffer from depression and mood disorders, the idea of exercise or physical activity can seem nearly impossible, while those who suffer from social anxiety might be haunted at the thought of going somewhere and running into people who want to have conversations.
The app prompts users to get out and explore their surroundings to find and capture Pokémon—so they’re being rewarded for leaving the house, without forcing social interaction.
So while science can’t prove anything yet, researchers believe that the mental health benefit people are experiencing from Pokémon Go comes from encouraging people to seek after new opportunities within the game that get them out and moving around.
“The developers behind Pokémon Go didn’t mean to create a mental health gaming app. But they’ve done so, and the effects seem to be largely positive,” said psychologist, John M. Grohl, who reports for PsychCentral.
Like anything that goes viral, Pokémon Go has not been all positive. But the benefits of playing safely and getting out of the house seem to outweigh any negative attributes of the game.