NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) – People usually play video games for fun, but as CBS 2’s Maurice DuBois reported, a new breed of games are being used to treat depression.
After a long day at work, Cheri Plevek said she loves to sit in front of her computer and play her favorite video game.
“I definitely feel it, like it does relax and de-stress me,” she said.
A new kind of video game is helping her battle depression by challenging her engage in positive activities.
“You have quests that you do and you earn points by doing something as simple as getting up out of your chair and moving, to calling a friend; hugging yourself,” Plevek said.
She said playing the game over and over changes the way she feels.
Researchers said that kind of repetition ultimately rewires the brain to think more positively, which helps chip away at the depression.
In one such game, players kill creatures that represent negative thoughts, CBS 2 reported.
Doctors said not to be fooled by the animation — the games have real therapeutic value.
“A lot of them look exactly the same as games that someone could play just for fun. So they may have cartoon characters, they could have missions — but embedded in that game are treatment mechanisms,” Psychologist Tracy Dennis said.
But CBS 2 reported that some worry these games have serious limitations, especially if symptoms are severe.
“Anyone who has a significant concern about their mental health, you want an evaluation by a skilled mental health professional. Do not believe the Internet is going to solve your mental health problems,” psychiatrist Dr. Drew Ramsey said.
Psychologist Dr. Jazmin Reyes-Portillo said the best way to use the video games is to pair them with face-to-face therapy.
“I think they can be a really great way for patients to practice in a very engaging way, some of the things that they discussed with their therapist,” Dr. Reyes-Portillo said.
Plevek does see a therapist in addition to playing the video game that she says is a valuable part of her treatment.
Most experts agree there needs to be more research on the effectiveness of the games, CBS 2 reported.
The National Institute of Health is now conducting a study.
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