Playing Pokémon Go Is Helping People With Mental Health Issues Feel Better
"As soon as I got Pokemon Go I was able to leave the house, and I walked outside for hours and suddenly found myself enjoying it."
Pokemon Go was released a few days ago, and it is dominating the lives of many fans.
Nintendo rolled out the new Pokémon app for iPhone in Asia and Australia last week, before rolling it out to the U.S. (it still hasn't appeared in the U.K. and several other countries).
The app uses GPS, letting you interact with (and catch) Pokémon, which are integrated into your “real-world view” via your phone’s camera.
Players are encouraged to travel around their neighborhood to find new Pokémon.
Many players have said the game has unexpectedly helped them with their mental health.
Tumblr user Ari is one of them. The 18-year-old, who lives in Orlando in Florida, has had anxiety and depression and for the past three years has avoided leaving the house unless absolutely necessary.
"I have struggled with motivation and energy since I was 9, when I developed severe depression," Ari told BuzzFeed News. "After that, when I was 15, I developed CPTSD [complex post-traumatic stress disorder] from an abusive relationship that left me completely socially phobic, and starting then I was barely able to leave my house for fear of seeing people.
"But as soon as I got Pokemon Go I was able to leave the house, and I walked outside for hours and suddenly found myself enjoying it. I had the instant rush of dopamine whenever I caught a Pokémon, and I wanted to keep going. Then today and yesterday I purposely put myself in social situations, going to the mall, just to play. And best of all I enjoyed it.
"I think it's partially because it gives an instant reward. It's not like going out, having an awful experience, and getting praise after. It's going out and getting that instant positive affirmation that makes going outside a good experience. I guess most people get that with being social or doing other activities."
Brianna, 21, who has borderline personality disorder, depression and social anxiety, told BuzzFeed News she spent an entire day walking about her city in Nova Scotia after Pokémon Go was released.
"Dealing with depression, it's often really hard to find a reason to leave bed, or even home," she said. "I was in a really bad low before I got the app. And I wouldn't say it's changed that completely, but it's kept me busy, and given me a lot of motivation.
"Pokémon was a huge part of my childhood and since the app came out it's given me a great reason to get up and go. I think it's awesome that the app forces you to get out if you really want to play to the full extent. I find it's even helped me get things done, because it's way more enticing to go do my errands AND catch Pokémon/hatch eggs."
Sophia, 31, told BuzzFeed News she had been feeling very low recently due to the spate of shootings and bad news.
"I started playing Pokémon Go because I needed help to distract myself," she said.
"I'm very introverted. It's mostly due to my facial deformity. I very rarely strike up a conversation with someone out of fear that they might not want to talk to me. But with Pokémon Go I feel OK. I can actually talk to people and not be afraid of rejection. And having the chance to talk to someone is exactly what I need right now.
"I've left the house a lot more. And I do have trouble with it because I live in a small rural town ... Plus I never knew that so many nerdy people live in my small town! This is so amazing."