Video Games & Vets with Mental Health Issues Explained

Can video games be a source of recuperation for veterans who have suffered PTSD and other forms of mental illness? While there’s a lot to unpack on the topic, and it depends on the games you play, there is some evidence to support a therapeutic element. We’ll explore some recent research into this topic.

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Do Video Games Help Vets Cope with Mental Illness?

In 2018, a team of public health researchers interviewed 20 participants in a study to determine the effect of video games on coping with mental illness. This research gives some insight into how some veterans play games to address symptoms of anxiety, including fearful thoughts, which plague many PTSD patients. It even showed how vets could use games to facilitate a need for both cooperation and competition, something many of them lose after leaving the service.

“Think of it this way. If you have a sports game, you can be playing it either as members of the same team or competitively,” said Dr. Michelle Colder Carras, the project’s primary investigator.

According to the participants, video games are a helpful alternative when they don’t respond to traditional treatments or have difficulty enjoying other leisure activities (often because of disability).

Four Ways Video Games May Help Mental Health

The study identifies four ways video games may help veterans with mental health disabilities.

  1. Adaptive Coping
    • Video games can help certain folks who struggle with addiction or other risky behaviors. The study showed how at least one participant played games as a substitute for serious alcohol dependency.
  2. Stress Release
    • It’s also possible for veterans to feel incredibly lonely and frustrated at various points in their post-service lives. Games break up the monotony and help the user avoid idle-mindedness (a breeding ground for thought traps, anxiety, anger, and so forth).
  3. Eudaimonia (Well-Being)
    • Some veterans seek to revive the well-being and agency they once had from participating in missions and projects with their former military colleagues. Video games with many strategy elements, even military-shooter games, can satiate this desire. 
  4. Socializing
    • Nowadays, you can play games with others either in person or over the Internet. Although it’s not meant to be a total substitute for other forms of socializing, it appears to help many individuals who would otherwise have little-to-no social interaction.

We hope you found this interesting and will continue to support SRQ Vets in our mission to spread joy to America’s military veterans. We operate as a 501(c)3 organization in Sarasota, FL, with a broad range of assistance efforts, including education, healthcare, employment solutions, and more. Find out how you can join our mission by calling us at 941-777-8387.

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