6th January, 2016
Depression is a serious medical condition that now effects just under 15 million people in the United States alone. This is about 7% of the US population (of adults over 18) and is something that can’t be ignored. Depression is often associated with drug and alcohol addiction, social anxiety, anger problems and can even cause problems at work. It can end relationships and unmanaged depression can even lead to suicide attempts. It can affect the way you sleep or eat and how you interact with others. It can even take a serious toll on physical health with depression being linked with increased risks of heart attacks and strokes.
While depression should be treated by a medical professional through the use of drugs (antidepressants) and/or psychotherapy, it can take time to overcome. Video games have a terrible reputation, often being attributed to cause mental disorders rather than fix them, but recent studies have actually linked video games with being helpful for those suffering from depression and anxiety. There are now medically backed reasons to start playing video games.
While the cause of depression isn’t exactly known, studies have shown that a lack of social interaction has the same mortality risk as smoking. Playing online video games actually introduces players to other real players, which in turn can allow for the formation of long lasting relationships. Yes it’s true, League of Legends can help create friendships that last a long time. League of Legends doesn’t just introduce a few players into a team to suggest social interaction, it actually requires it. This forces people who are uncomfortable with social situations (or tied to their house through depression) to get some form of social interaction. While having a social life fully online has been shown to have negative effects compared to a social life both online and offline, it’s important to realise that a social life online is better than no social life at all. If playing League of Legends provides you a social life that you previously didn’t have then it’s important to ignore the haters and keep interacting with other humans. Just make sure you don’t become friends with the flamers.
League of Legends can also offer something that is very important for a depressive: an escape. It’s often found that people who use substance abuse use it as an escape. Escapism is defined as ‘the tendency to seek distraction and relief from unpleasant realities, especially by seeking entertainment or engaging in fantasy’. This definition fits perfectly with gaming. While it’s important to ensure that your online life merges with your real life, using League of Legends as a distraction from the real world is a great way to help manage your depression. One of the problems with this method is that the player base on League of Legends can be toxic, but this can be solved by simply muting the worst offenders or queueing up with friends.
It’s important to make this very clear. Sitting on League of Legends all day as a depressed person is not going to cure your depression. Playing League of Legends throughout the day is going to help manage your depression, but not cure it. Researchers at Iowa State University have actually found a definite correlation between heavy gaming and the symptoms of depression. The lead researcher stated that he expected to find that the depression led to gaming, but he actually found that an addiction to gaming can lead to depression.
However, the science behind it is not as simple as it first seems. Gaming is used as a coping mechanism for a lot of people, which means that being addicted to League of Legends does not cause depression in everyone. Some people will appear addicted to video games as a way of coping with depression, but if they escape depression then their addiction will suddenly disappear. It’s very important to distinguish the difference between being depressed because you are addicted, and being addicted because you are depressed. Unfortunately the research in this area is difficult to find and often uses vague or unreliable methods.
If you think you suffer from depression then you should visit a medical professional. Playing League of Legends will not cure depression, although it will certainly help you manage it. Escapism and coping techniques are important to learn and playing video games is a great example of a coping technique isn’t harmful to the user (when you follow proper PC posture and stretches). League of Legends can provide social interaction to those that can’t find it and it can help keep your brain active.